But these days, it seems, no one wants to be a dog racist—and this is where things start to get really weird. “The opposition to pit bulls might not be racist,” Junod writes in his Esquire piece. “It does, however, employ racial thinking.” Jeez, Louise. I suppose, then, it is time that I confess: I am a pug supremacist. Go ahead and judge me, America. Say what you will, but the worst thing a pug can do is fart you to death.
Rather than being what it began as, a “narrowly political strategy for living peacefully in a world of inexorably clashing comprehensive views of reality and the human good,” liberalism has for many become that comprehensive view of reality and the human good. Your neighbor’s ideas are no longer different. They are heretical. Liberalism could become the problem that it was intended to solve.
Mark Anderson, presently on a sort of Nietzsche pilgrimage, sent me this panoramic shot. Left-click to enlarge. Mark explains:
The photo shows lake Sils. The little settlement below is Isola. Further to the right, where the lake ends, is Sils-Maria. The large patch of green that may look like an island right up against Sils is the Chasté peninsula, one of Nietzsche’s favorite places. He even fantasized about building himself a hermit’s hut there.
Could I present liberal-left ideas in such a way that the reader could not tell that I was not a liberal? Let me take a stab at this with respect to a few 'hot' topics. This won't be easy. I will have to present liberal-left ideas as plausible while avoiding all mention of their flaws. And all this without sarcasm, parody, or irony. What follows is just shoot-from-the-hip, bloggity-blog stuff. Each of these subheadings could be expanded into a separate essay. And of course there are many more subheadings that could be added. But who has time?
Abortion. We liberals believe that a women's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is a very important right that must be upheld. We are not pro abortion but pro choice, believing that decisions concerning a woman's reproductive health are ultimately her decisions, in consultation with physicians and family members and clergy, but are not the business of lawmakers and politicians. Every woman has a right to do what she wants with her body and its contents. While we respect those who oppose abortion on religious grounds, these grounds are of a merely private nature and cannot be made the basis of public policy. Religious people do not have the right to impose their views on the rest of us using the coercive power of the state.
Voting Rights. We liberals can take pride in the role our predecessors played in the struggle for universal suffrage. Let us not forget that until the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution on 18 August 1920, women were not allowed to vote. We liberals seek to preserve and deepen the progress that has been made. For this reason we oppose voter identification laws that have the effect of disenfranchising American citizens by disproportionately burdening young voters, people of color, the elderly , low-income families, and people with disabilities.
Gun Control. We live in a society awash in gun violence. While we respect the Second Amendment and the rights of hunters and sport shooters, we also believe in reasonable regulations such as a ban on all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Marriage. We liberals believe in equality and oppose discrimination in all its forms, whether on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. For this reason we support marriage equality and same-sex marriage. Opposition to same-sex marriage is discriminatory. As we become more enlightened and shed ancient superstitions, we extend the realm of freedom and equality to include more and more of the hitherto persecuted and marginalized. The recognition of same-sex marriage is but one more step toward a truly inclusive and egalitarian society.
Taxation and Wealth Redistribution. We liberals want justice for all. Now justice is fairness, and fairness requires equality. We therefore maintain that a legitimate function of government is wealth redistribution to reduce economic inequality.
Size and Scope of Government. As liberals we believe in robust and energetic government. Government has a major role to play in the promotion of the common good. It is not the people's adversary, but their benefactor. The government is not a power opposed to us; the government is us. It should provide for the welfare of all of us. Its legitimate functions cannot be restricted to the protection of life, liberty, and property (Locke) or to the securing of the negative rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson). Nor can it be restricted to the securing of these and a few others: people have positive rights and it is a legitimate function of government to ensure that people received the goods and services to which they have a positive right.
Health and Human Services. A decent society takes care of its members and provides for their welfare. The provision of welfare cannot be left to such institutions of civil society as private charities. It is a legitimate state function. People have positive rights to food, water, shelter, clothing, and health services. These rights generate in those capable of satisfying them the duty to provide the things in question. It is therefore a legitimate function of government to make sure that people get what they need.
Capital Punishment. We liberals are enlightened and progressive people. Now as humankind has progressed morally, there has been a corresponding progress in penology. The cruel and unusual punishments of the past have been outlawed. The outlawing of capital punishment is but one more step in the direction of progress and humanity and indeed the final step in implementing the Eight Amendment's proscription of "cruel and unusual punishments." There is no moral justification for capital punishment when life in prison without the possibility of parole is available.
The Role of Religion. As liberals, we are tolerant. We respect the First Amendment right of religious people to a "free exercise" of their various religions. But religious beliefs and practices and symbols and documents are private matters that ought to be kept out of the public square. When a justice of the peace, for example, posts a copy of the Ten Commandments, the provenience of which is the Old Testament, in his chambers or in his court, he violates the separation of church and state.
Immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. As liberals we embrace immigration: it enriches us and contributes to diversity. We therefore oppose the nativist and xenophobic immigration policies of conservatives while also condemning the hypocrisy of those who oppose immigration when their own ancestors came here from elsewhere.
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.
It is hard for many of us to understand why so many leftists have worked themselves up into a frothing frenzy over the 5-4 SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision, a frenzy that in the notable cases of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton has spilled over into shameless lying. But even among those lefties who are not lying about the decision, and who understand what it was and just how narrow and circumscribed it was, there are those who are still going nuts over it. Why?
The upshot of the decision was that closely-held, for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby may not be coerced by the government into providing exactly four, count 'em, four, abortion-inducing contraceptives for its employees in violation of the religious beliefs of the proprietors of the company. That's it!
(Parenthetical Terminological Observation: There is an interesting terminological question here that perhaps only philosophers could get excited over, namely: how can a substance or device that destroys a fertilized egg, a conceptus, be legitimately referred to as contraceptive? A genuine contraceptive device, such as a diaphragm, prevents conception, prevents the coming into being of a conceptus. Contraception comes too late once there is a fertilized ovum on the scene. 'Abortifacient contraceptive' is a contradictio in adjecto. Call me a pedant if you like, but what you call pedantry, I call precision. One ought to insist on precision in these matters if one is serious and intellectually honest.)
My question again: why the liberal-left frenzy over such a narrow and reasonable Supreme Court decision, one that did not involve the interpretation of the Constitution, but the mere construction of a statute, i.e., the interpretation of an existing law? (And of course, the decision did not first introduce the notion that corporations may be viewed as persons!)
1. The first point is that ". . . while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts."
First a quibble. It is not correct to imply that it is only the religious right that views religion as an essential component of human experience; almost all conservatives do, religious and nonreligious. I gave an example the other day of the distinguished Australian philosopher David M. Armstrong who, while an atheist and a naturalist, had the greatest respect for religion and considered it an essential part of human experience.
Well, could religion be reasonably viewed as a hobby? Obviously not. It cuts too deep. Religion addresses the ultimate questions, the questions as to why we exist, what we exist for, and how we ought to live. It purports to provide meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. Religions make total claims on the lives of their adherents, and those who take their religion seriously apply it to every aspect of their lives: it is not something that can be hived off from the rest of one's life like a hobby.
It is because of this total claim that religions make to provide ultimate understanding, meaning, and directives for action that puts it at odds with the totalizing and the fully totalitarian state. The ever-expanding, all-controlling centralized state will brook no competitors when it comes to the provision of the worldview that will guide and structure our lives. This is why hostility to religion is inscribed into the very essence of the Left. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there cannot really be a religious Left: those on the Left who are 'religious' live as if leftism is their real religion.
I would reformulate McArdle's first point as follows. The Left has no understanding of religion and no appreciation of it. They see it as a tissue of superstitions and prejudices that contributes nothing to human flourishing. They want it suppressed, or else marginalized: driven from the public square into the realm of the merely private.
That the SCOTUS majority took religion seriously is therefore part of what drives leftists crazy.
2. McArdle's second point has to do with negative and positive rights and the role of the state. A positive right is a right to be provided with something, and a negative right is a right to not having something taken away. Thus my right to life is a negative right, a right that generates in others the duty to refrain from killing me among other things. The right to free speech is also a negative right: it induces in the government the duty not to prevent me from publishing my thoughts on this weblog, say. But I have no positive right to be provided with the equipment necessary to publish a weblog. I have the negative right to acquire such equipment, but not the positive right to have it provided for me by any person or by the state.
Now suppose you think that people have the positive right to health care or health care insurance and that this includes the right to be provided with abortifacients or even with abortions. Then the crunch comes inevitably. There is no positive right to an abortion, we conservatives say, and besides, abortion is a grave moral evil. If the state forces corporations like Hobby Lobby to provide abortions or abortifacients, then it violates the considered moral views of conservatives. It forces them to to support what they consider to be a grave moral evil.
People have the legal right to buy and use the contraceptives they want. But they don't have the right to use the coercive power of the state to force others to pay for them when the contraceptives in question violate the religious beliefs of those who are forced to pay for them. To a conservative that is obvious.
But it riles up lefties who hold that (i) religion is a purely private matter that must be kept private; (ii) there is a positive right to health care; (iii) abortion is purely a matter of a woman's reproductive health.
3. McArdle's third point has to do with the Left's destruction of civil society. I would put it like this. The Left aims to eliminate the buffering elements of civil society lying between the naked individual and the state. These elements include the family, private charities, businesses, service organizations and voluntary associations of all kinds. As they wither away, the state assumes more of their jobs. The state can wear the monstrous aspect of Leviathan or that of the benevolent nanny whose multiple tits are so many spigots supplying panem et circenses to the increasingly less self-reliant masses. To cite just one example, the Obama administration promotes ever-increasing food stamp dependency to citizens and illegal aliens alike under the mendacious SNAP acronym thereby disincentivizing relief and charitable efforts at the local level while further straining an already strapped Federal treasury. A trifecta of stupidity and corruption, if you will: the infantilizing of the populace who now needs federal help in feeding itself; the fiscal irresponsibility of adding to the national debt; the assault on the institutions of civil society out of naked lust for ever more centralized power in the hands of the Dems, the left wing party. (Not that the Repubs are conservative.)
From the foregoing one can see just how deep the culture war goes. It is a struggle over the nature of religion, its role in human flourishing, and its place in society. It is a battle over the nature of rights. It is a war over the size and scope and role of government, the limits if any on state power, and the state's relation to the individual and to the institutions of civil society.
In one sense, Alan Dershowitz was right to refer to the Hobby Lobby decision as "monumentally insignificant." In another sense wrong: the furor over it lays bare the deep philosophical conflicts that divide us.
I am critical of giving feminism and race the extra attention and insulation from criticism that comes from designating these topics as “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy.” Given that it’s considered impolitic to criticize “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy,” we should vigorously debate what deserves to be considered as such. Knowledge, ethics, and being-qua-being deserve that distinction. It’s not obvious that feminism and race do.
As many suspected, I am an expert in neither philosophy of race nor feminist philosophy. I need not be. One could have principled reservations about a discipline called “conservative studies” without being an Edmund Burke scholar. If you know that conservatism is a position in political philosophy, you might reasonably think it shouldn’t also be a discipline unto itself.
That is essentially the point I’m pressing against feminism as a sub-discipline of philosophy. Let feminism be discussed alongside conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, fascism, and socialism in political-philosophy classes. Why must feminism, alone among these “isms,” also have its own brand of epistemology, ethics, literary theory, and biology? I doubt feminists would tolerate libertarian counterparts to any of these.
I think Case is making two logically distinct points here, points that ought to be explicitly distinguished.
The first is that, just as conservatism is not a philosophical subdiscipline unto itself, neither should feminism be. The second is that, whether or not feminism is its own subdiscipline, it is dubious to suppose that it entails its own epistemology, ethics, and ontology.
The second point invites parody. If Jewish philosophy implied its own epistemology, etc., what would that look like?
Jewish epistemology: Your mother has privileged access. Jewish ethics: ‘can’ implies ‘don't.' Jewish logic: if not p, what? q maybe? Jewish decision theory: maximize regret.
What principles would a feminist ontology include? That male entities are entia non grata? That they are unnecessary posits? I am tempted to make further jokes about razors and nomological danglers, but I'll leave that to the reader.
Surprisingly, Brian Leiter adopts a civil tone in his discussion of Case. Perhaps the taste of his own medicine administered by me and others has had a salutary effect on him.
Here. Kelly utterly demolishes Pelosi's shameless fabrications.
That the Left lies repeatedly and blatantly and shamelessly about matters that are easily checked says something about them. Among other things, it says that they view politics as war. "All's fair in love and war." "The end justifies the means." Truth is not a value for the Left unless it serves their agenda. You have to understand that. It is the agenda that matters, the things to be done. "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world, but the point is to change it." (Karl Marx, 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, my emphasis.) And they think they know what sorts of change are truly ameliorative. But that is precisely what they do not know, and why Obama and his crew are proving to be a disaster both for the country and for the world.
And that the mainstream media does not call the Left on its lies shows that they have abdicated their journalistic responsibilities. They are in the tank for their man. But that may change somewhat as Obama exposes more and more of his incompetence and lawlessness. I don't reckon that Chris Mathews and the rest of the Obama shills over at MSNBC are getting quite the same thrill 'up the leg' as they did back in 2008.
Occasionally, Robert Paul Wolff says something at his blog that I agree with completely, for instance:
To an extent I did not anticipate when I set out on life’s path, books have provided many of the joys and satisfactions I have encountered. I am constantly grateful to the scholars and thinkers who have written, and continue to write, the books from which I derive such pleasure, both the great authors of the past . . . and those less exalted . . . .
Gratitude is a characteristically conservative virtue; hence its presence in Wolff softens my attitude toward him.
As Wolff suggests, our gratitude should extend to the lesser lights, the humbler laborers in the vineyards of Wissenschaft, the commentators and translators, the editors and compilers and publishers. Beyond that, to the librarians and the supporters of libraries, and all the preservers and transmitters of high culture, and those who, unlettered themselves in the main, defend with blood and iron the precincts of high culture from the barbarians who now once again are massing at the gates.
Nor should we forget the dedicated teachers, mostly women, who taught us to read and write and who opened up the world of learning to us and a lifetime of the sublime joys of study and reading and writing.
A reader wants my thoughts regarding the following hypothetical scenarios.
I own a modestly nice car, say, a 2014 Honda Accord with some bells and whistles. I treat it fairly well, ensuring that it receives in a timely fashion all of the required maintenance. I get it washed and waxed with pride. The one deficiency I have is that I park my car with some indiscretion. I am not that vigilant with locking my doors. You warn me that this is a mistake. I counter by saying that there are other cars that are more valuable, say BMWs and Audis and that I don't park my car in so-called 'bad areas.' Nonetheless, to my foolish shock and surprise, my car is stolen one day. Could it then be said that I am at least partially responsible for having my car stolen?
Yes, you are partially responsible, and the thief is partially responsible, but his part is larger than yours. You are the victim of the crime and he is the perpetrator. I blame both of you for the crime, loading the lion's share of the blame upon the perpetrator. But I blame you too, and in blaming you, I blame the victim. Clearly, it is right, proper, and just to blame the victim within limits and subject to qualifications.
This is why the accusation, "You are blaming the victim!" cuts little ice with me. In some, but not all, situations some judicious blaming of the victim is perfectly appropriate. People who cannot see this are in many cases victims of their own political correctness and ought to be blamed for not using their faculties and thus for being victims of their own self-induced political correctness. This is a sort of meta-level blaming of the victim.
We ought to distinguish the legal, the moral, and the prudential aspects of the situation. I will set the legal questions aside since in the above scenario the victim hasn't done anything legally wrong. (In related scenarios, however, the victim would probably be criminally negligent under the law, e.g, you leave your child in the car, keys in ignition, engine running, while you enter a convenience store for a cup of coffee, and your child is abducted.)
The prudential and moral aspects alone interest me. But before I explain the difference, let's consider my reader's second scenario.
If we say yes, then I wish to change the elements of our hypothetical scenario in attempts to pump some uncomfortable intuitions. Say instead of owning a modestly nice car, I own a modestly nice female body. I treat it fairly well, making sure I go to the doctor in a timely manner and go to the spa. However, I lack vigilance with myself and drink a lot at frat parties. You warn me that this is not wise. I counter by saying that there are other women more foolish than I and that I don't frequent 'bad places.' Yet, to my foolish shock and surprise, some abuse occurs. Could it be said that I am then at least partially responsible for the abuse?
Yes, of course.
Contemporary sentiment is that there is no one to blame for sexual assault except for the perpetrator. And while I agree that the perpetrators are primarily the culpable ones, I also think that there must be some level of personal responsibility that must be practiced. I don't think it terribly offensive for us to encourage women to exercise a healthy level of skepticism of one's fellow human being, yet feminists will cry foul, that we are punishing women for the potential crimes of others when we say it is their responsibility to not party or dress a certain way or hang out with a certain crowd or drink themselves to oblivion, that we should focus our efforts on disciplining the would-be perpetrators with more education.
My reader obviously has his head screwed on Right (which fact is also part of the explanation of why he reads my weblog in the first place). I agree entirely with what he says. I would only add to it.
What the attractive young woman does when she 'struts her stuff' in dangerous precincts is both imprudent and immoral. I don't need to explain why it is imprudent. It is immoral because she is tempting others to commit immoral acts. Of course, if she ends up being raped, the lion's share of the moral blame lands on the rapist. But it would be absurd to suggest that she bears no moral responsibility for the rape. She did something morally wrong: she tempted testosterone-crazed drunken frat boys to have their way with her when she knows what such animals are like. (They didn't call the John Belushi flick Animal House for nothing. And look what happened to him: he rode the Speedball Express to Kingdom Come.) The principle here, one probably admitting of exceptions, is something like this:
(P) It is morally wrong to suborn immoral behavior.
'Suborn' is most often used in legal contexts, but as the hyperlinked definition shows, it has a broader meaning extendible to the moral sphere. Surely, it is in general morally wrong to tempt, entice, persuade people to commit immoral acts.
If you reject (P), what would you be maintaining? That it is morally acceptable to suborn immoral behavior? That is is morally obligatory to suborn such behavior? That the subornation of immoral behavior is morally neutral? None of the above, say I.
If you have moral sense, you will accept (P). Unfortunately, moral sense is in short supply in these benighted times. Can we blame this one on liberals too?
My points are made even more forcefully, and more elegantly, in the first two articles below, especially the second.
BV: The examples given above are not examples of solicitation as per the definition to which you linked. The well-endowed but scantily-clad female who advertises her charms in dangerous precincts is not soliciting the crime of rape or any other crime against her person. The definition also implies that solicitation must be between a person A and some other person B. But if a person acts in such a way as to tempt another to commit a crime, there needn't be any particular person who is being tempted.
Let's consider another example. I withdraw a large sum of money from an outdoor ATM machine at night in a bad part of town and then walk down the street ostentatiously counting my wad. I don't see that that foolish behavior would count as solicitation by the above definition. After all, I don't want to be robbed, and there is no specific person I am persuading to rob me. But if I offer you $10,000 to kill my wife so that I can collect on a life insurance policy, then that is a clear case of solicitation, as per the definition, whether or not you agree to attempt the dastardly deed and whether or not you succeed.
The problem with suborning is that many educated speakers understand it to mean bribing someone to say something false under oath. Bribing is crucial to suborning. A material element of the criminal charge is your use of corrupt or illegal inducements (e.g., a bribe) to bring about a perjury. If you merely "tempt, entice, [rhetorically] persuade people to commit immoral acts" (your terms), you are not suborning, though you may be soliciting immoral/criminal behavior.
BV: So you are saying that the offer of a bribe is essential to subornation? If memory serves, however, in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton, one of the charges was subornation of perjury. Was it alleged that Clinton offered a bribe to the person or persons he attempted to persuade to perjure themselves? I'm just asking. And what exactly is a bribe in the eyes of the law? A monetary inducement only?
In any case, I thought I made it clear that I was not talking above about the law but about morality. I linked to a dictionary definition of 'suborn' that is broader than a legal definition. But it may be that 'suborn' is not the best word for what I am trying to convey.
As a principle about suborning, I don't think there is anything controversial about (P)--but it has a pretty narrow scope. If you replace (P) with a much broader solicitation principle, to include things like tempting and speaking in favor, it's not clear to me at least that (P) will fly without a lot of qualification.
BV: The sort of counterexample to (P) that occurred to me was what goes on in a 'sting' operation by an undercover law enforcement agent.
"Tempting" has always puzzled me. If I put you in a position where it would be easy for you to embezzle a large sum of money, have I tempted you or just shown my faith in your honesty? And if you choose to steal the money, what blame should attach to me because of your (unsuspected) bad character? Am I to be blamed for not acting on the assumption that you will turn into a thief if given the chance? Similarly for the lady who dresses in a sexy outfit and gets attacked. Why are we blaming her because some men have no self-control or decency?
BV: Now that is a good point. You leave the bank vault open with me nearby while you go out for lunch. Are you tempting me to steal or evincing faith in my honesty? Well, if you don't know me, or don't know me well, then you ought to bear some moral responsibility for my pilfering of the pelf. But if you knew me very well and knew that I was hitherto always honest, then I think very little or perhaps no blame would attach to you.
The case of the sexually attractive and scantily-clad female who advertises her endowments around people she doesn't know is relevantly different. She knows what men in general are like and knows that her behavior is risky and yet she does it anyway. I say she bears some of the blame for the abuse she experiences.
Suppose I know that Jack is an alcoholic and I ply him with strong drink at my Thanskgiving feast. He drives off drunk and slaughters a family of four. Do I bear some moral responsibility for the slaughter? Of course I do. But suppose I don't know Tom, but in good faith I sell him a gun, having no reason to suspect him of criminal intent, but Tom then kills his wife using the gun I sold him. Am I to any degree morally responsible for the crime? No, not to any degree.
Here is yet another entry from the now-defunct Powerblogs site. It is pretty good, I think, and deserves to be kept online.
Have I been in existence as one and the same human individual from conception on? Of course, I and any intra-uterine predecessors I may have had have been genetically human from conception on: at no time was there anything genetically lupine or bovine or canine or feline in my mother's womb. The question is whether I am numerically the same human individual as the individual that came into existence at 'my' conception.
The following argument seems to show that no zygote is a human being and that I have not been in existence as one and the same human individual from conception on. The argument is a variant of a much more complicated argument presented by Peter van Inwagen in Material Beings, Cornell UP, 1990, p. 152 ff. (In note 55, van Inwagen cites Peter Geach, The Virtues, Cambridge UP, 1977, p. 30.)
The argument is essentially this:
1. A zygote is already a human being. (assumption for reductio) 2. When a zygote divides, it ceases to exist. (premise) Therefore 3. When a zygote divides, the human being it is ceases to exist. (from 1, 2) 4. At or after a zygotic division that terminates a human being, a new human being comes to exist. (premise) Therefore 5. Pregnancy involves the creation of two human beings. (from 1, 4) 6. (5) is absurd: there is only ever one human being in the womb. Therefore 7. (1) is false: A zygote is not a human being.
Since the inferences are valid, the soundness of the argument rides on the truth of its premises. I will not question the truth of (4). The normal outcome of (a human) pregnancy is the birth of a human being. Premise (2), however, seems open to doubt.
First we need to understand the reaoning behind (2). If Z splits into A and B, there appear to be three possibilities: Z continues to exist as A; Z continues to exist as B; Z ceases to exist. But any reason one gives why Z continues to exist as A is equally good as a reason why Z continues to exist as B. Since Z cannot continue to exist as two things, both of the first two possibilities are ruled out. This leaves the third: Z ceases to exist.
There is however a fourth possibility: when a zygote divides, it does not cease to exist, but changes from a one-celled to a two-celled organism. Of course, one thing cannot become two things. But a one-celled organism that becomes a two-celled organism is arguably one and the same organism which exists at two different times. One thing does not become two things; a one-celled thing becomes a two-celled thing.
Zygote Z becomes embryo AB. Must we say that Z ceases to exist and AB begins to exist? Why can't we say that the organism that is Z continues to exist as AB? Crude analogy: I have a burning log L in my fireplace. L breaks into two burning pieces P1 and P2. Does L cease to exist to be replaced by P1 and P2? One could say that, but it seems equally reasonable to say that L continues to exist composed of two distinct parts P1 and P2.
Van Inwagen rules out the possibility I am suggesting:
It does not follow, therefore, from the fact that the zygote is an organism, and hence a real object, that the two-cell embryo that replaces it is a real object. Why should we believe that there something that B and C compose? They adhere to each other, but we have seen that there is no reason to suppose that two objects compose anything. (Material Beings, p. 153)
I don't understand why van Inwagen says that "there is no reason to suppose that two objects compose anything." I find bizarre his denial that there are such things as ships and houses, and the implication above that an embryo, though composed of living things, is not itself a living thing.
Was I once a zygote? Yes, as far as I can see, van Inwagen's argument notwithstanding.
One thing is very clear: metaphysics is unavoidable. Just a little thought about a 'hot button' issue such as abortion lands you right in it.
Left-wing bias at the NYT is nothing new, of course, but the following opening paragraph of a July 8th editorial is particularly egregious. But before I quote it, let me say that the problem is not that the editors have a point of view or even that it is a liberal-left point of view. The problem is their seeming inability, or rather unwillingness, to present a matter of controversy in a fair way. Here is the opening paragraph of Hobby Lobby's Disturbing Sequel:
The Supreme Court violated principles of religious liberty and women’s rights in last week’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed owners of closely held, for-profit corporations (most companies in America) to impose their religious beliefs on workers by refusing to provide contraception coverage for employees with no co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act. But for the court’s male justices, it didn’t seem to go far enough.
This is a good example of the sort of Orwellian mendacity we have come to expect from the Obama administration and its supporters in the mainstream media. War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A defense of religious liberty is a violation of religious liberty. Those who protest being forced by the government to violate their consciences and religious beliefs are imposing their religious beliefs. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
Every statement in the opening paragraph of the NYT editorial is a lie. The 5-4 SCOTUS decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby defended principles of religious liberty. It did not violate any women's rights. Neither the right to an abortion nor the right to purchase any form of contraception were affected by the decision. The ACA mandate to provide contraceptives was not overturned but merely restricted so that Hobby Lobby would not be forced to provide four abortifacient contraceptives.
I won't say anything about the ridiculous insinuation in the last sentence, except that arguments don't have testicles.
Truth is not a value for the Left. Winning is what counts, by any means. They see politics as war, which is why they feel justified in their mendacity.
The quite narrow question the Supreme Court had to decide was whether closely held, for-profit corporations are persons under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act . "RFRA states that “[the] Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”3 (Ibid.)
If Hobby Lobby is forced by the government to provide abortifacients to its employees, and Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law, then the government's Affordable Care Act mandate is in violation of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. For it would substantially burden Hobby Lobby's proprietors' exercise of religion if they were forced to violate their own consciences by providing the means of what they believe to be murder to their employees. So the precise question that had to be decided was whether Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law. The question was NOT whether corporations are persons in the eyes of the law, as some benighted cmmentators seems to think.
Note also that the issue here is not constitutional but statutory: the issue has solely to do with the interpretation and application of a law, RFRA. As Alan Dershowitz explains (starting at 7:52), it has to do merely with the "construction of a statute."
This entry takes up where I left off yesterday. R. Crozat, responding to yesterday's post, e-mails:
I agree that philosophy is tasked to evaluate the philosophical claims of scientists. Your post on Professor Gleiser does the job.
In addition to confusing seeing with object seen, Gleiser seems to mix physics with meaning. He writes “You say, “I’m reading this word now.” In reality, you aren’t.” Here, his use of "reading" confuses:
a) an optical process that enables reading, with
b) actual reading, which is the interpretation and understanding of the meaning of information.
Gleiser's description of the optics is informative, but he misunderstands the nature of reading. He refers to “reading” then proceeds to treat the optics as if optics is reading. But they are not identical. Clearly, one can run his eyes over words without reading them. The light-traveling and eye-running are physical; the reading is mental/intentional. Gleiser’s mistake is like confusing driving with a gasoline fill-up, photography with light and lens, or jogging with trail-mix, bones and muscles.
I can imagine Socrates rephrasing Phaedo 99b: “Fancy being unable to distinguish between a mental faculty and the process without which that faculty could not be enabled!”
My correspondent is exactly right. I spotted the blurring of seeing and reading too, but decided not to pursue it in the interests of brevity, brevity being the soul of blog, as has been observed perhaps too often in these pages.
Reading involves understanding, but one can see a word, a phrase, a sentence, and so on without understanding it. So there is more to reading than seeing. Seeing is with the eyes; understanding is with the mind. Note also that one can read without seeing, reading Braille being an example of this.
I would add to what my correspondent states by making a tripartite distinction among (i) the causal basis of visual perception, (ii) seeing, and (iii) reading. It is not just reading that is intentional or object-directed; seeing is as well. To see is to see something as something. One cannot just see, and all seeing is a seeing-as. It may be that our physicist is guilty of a three-fold confusion.
There is no reading (in the ordinary sense of the word) without seeing, and there is no seeing without brain, eyes, neural pathways, light, physical objects, etc. But to confuse these three is a Philosophy 101 mistake.
The quotation from Phaedo 99b is entirely apt although the topic there is not seeing and understanding, but free human action. Plato has Socrates say:
If it were said that without bones and muscles and other parts of the body I could not have carried my resolutions into effect, that would be true. But to say that they are the cause of what I do, . . . that my acting is not from choice of what is best, would be a very loose and careless way of talking.
Our physicists need to educate themselves so as to avoid the loose and careless ways of talking that they readily fall into when, eager to turn a buck, they inflict their pseudo-philosophical speculations on the unwitting public.
One of the tasks of philosophy is to expose bad philosophy. Scientists pump out quite a lot of it. Physicists are among the worst. I have given many examples. Here is another one. Let's get to work. Dartmouth physicist Marcelo Gleiser writes in There is No Now,
You say, “I’m reading this word now.” In reality, you aren’t. Since light travels at a finite speed, it takes time for it to bounce from the book to your eye. When you see a word, you are seeing it as it looked some time in the past. To be precise, if you are holding the book at one foot from your eye, the light travel time from the book to your eye is about one nanosecond, or one billionth of a second. The same with every object you see or person you talk to. Take a look around. You may think that you are seeing all these objects at once, or “now,” even if they are at different distances from you. But you really aren’t, as light bouncing from each one of them will take a different time to catch your eye. The brain integrates the different sources of visual information, and since the differences in arrival time are much smaller than what your eyes can discern and your brain process, you don’t see a difference. The “present”—the sum total of the sensorial input we say is happening “now”—is nothing but a convincing illusion.
Gleiser is confusing seeing with object seen. True, light travels at a finite speed. So the word seen is the word as it was one nanosecond ago. But it doesn't follow that I am not seeing the word now. The seeing occurs now at time t, the word seen, however, is not the word as it is at t, but the word as it was at t* (t*<t).
When I glance at the sun, I see it as it was about eight minutes ago. But it does not follow that the seeing (glancing) is not occurring now, or that there is no now.
Suppose that at time t I am visually aware of a word and of a cat. I am focused on the word, but the cat is nearby in the periphery of my visual field. So the seeing of the word and the seeing of the cat are simultaneous seeings. But the word I see is the word as it was one nanosecond ago, whereas the cat I see is the cat as it was, say, 10 nanoseconds ago. So I grant that there are a couple of illusions here.
The first illusion is that if a seeing occurs at time t, then the object seen is as it is at t. This cannot be given the well-known facts that Gleiser adduces. The object seen is as it was at an earlier time t*. But if you see through (forgive the pun) the first illusion, you may still succumb to the second. The second illusion is that objects seen at the same time t are as they were at the same time t*, where t* is earlier than t. In my example, the seeing of the word and the seeing of the cat occur at the same time, call it t. But, given that word and cat are at different distances from the subject, there is no one time t*, earlier than t, such that word and cat were as they were when they were seen.
But again, that does not show that the present moment or the Now is an illusion.
Gleiser's thesis is that there is no Now, that it is a "cognitive illusion." He sums up:
To summarize: given that the speed of light is fast but finite, information from any object takes time to hit us, even if the time is tiny. We never see something as it is “now.” However, the brain takes time to process information and can’t distinguish (or time-order) two events that happen sufficiently close to one another. The fact that we see many things happening now is an illusion, a blurring of time perception.
Gleiser is just confused. There is an illusion, but it is the illusion that we see things as they are now. But that is not to say that there is no Now, or that the Now is an illusion. In fact, Gleiser presupposes that there is a Now when he says that we never see anything as it is now. Right now the Sun is in some definite state, but the physics of visual perception make it impossible to see the Sun as it is now. If it had gone supernova three minutes ago, it would appear to us now as it usually does.
Geiser confuses an epistemological claim -- We never see anything distant from us as it is at the precise time of the seeing -- with an ontological claim: there is no present moment.
There is other nonsense in Gleiser's piece. Take this sentence: "The notion of time is related to change, and the passage of time is simply a tool to track change." I'll leave it to the reader to sort this out. I've had enough!
The muse of philosophy must have visited my otherwise undistinguished classmate Dolores back in the fifth grade. The topic was dirty jokes and that we should not tell them or listen to them. "But sister," Dolores piped up, "what if you laugh not because the joke is dirty but because it is funny?"
It was a good distinction then and a good distinction now.
I posted on Armstrong's naturalism yesterday, and that got me to thinking whether he ever said anything anywhere about religion. A little searching turned up the following 2002 interview of Armstrong by Andrew Chrucky. Here is an excerpt that touches upon Armstrong's view of religion:
Chrucky: Let me move on to something else. What I would want to know from a philosopher if I were an ordinary person. Probably the first things I would want to know is: Are you religious in any way? Armstrong: No. I'm not.
Chrucky: What is your take on religion? Armstrong: I have the greatest respect for it. I think it may be the thing that many people need, and it enshrines many truths about life. But I do not think it is actually true.
Chrucky: So, it expresses truth in some metaphorical way? Armstrong: In some metaphorical and symbolic way, I think it grasps at truth. And I think it gives hope and comfort to many.
Chrucky: I am not much into religion as a subject, but perhaps someone like Bultmann who was demythologizing religion is someone you would find favor with? Armstrong: I am quite happy with religion going on the way it is. I don't want to alter the religions. That's not my interest. But I suppose that if you are considering what is the truth behind religion then it would have to be demythologized.
Chrucky: How do you view the state of the world? Right now there seems to be a rise in fundamentalism all over. Armstrong: Yes.
Chrucky: You know Iran became a theocracy, and there seems to be a Christian-Islamic confrontation going on. How does one resolve this? Is there a philosophical way of looking at it? Armstrong: No. I don't think so.
Chrucky: Is there a need for dialogue? . . . so that religions confront one another, or is this hopeless? Armstrong: I don't really know. I really don't have any views on this point. I think of myself as in the Christian and Jewish tradition, and in the tradition of Greece. Matthew Arnold thought of Hebraism and Hellenism as the twin poles of Western culture. I see myself as a person in the stream within that culture, and I think it may perhaps be the best tradition of thought and life that has so far been evolved. Certainly I don't think we should be apologetic about it.
This interview confirms what I suspected was Armstrong's attitude toward religion. As a naturalist, he cannot consider any of the characteristic claims of religion to be literally true. But as a conservative, he has "the greatest respect for it" and he appreciates the important and beneficial role it plays in the lives of many people. While not true in its characteristic claims, religion "enshrines many truths about life." Armstrong endorses the notion that Hebraism and Hellenism are the twin poles of Western culture, the tradition of which is the best that has so far been evolved. Armstrong sees himself in that tradition. One might wonder, however, whether his work in philosophy has had or will have the effect of undermining it.
He is clearly a traditionalist who takes the great problems of philosophy seriously and unabashedly uses phrases like 'great problems.' He respects the tradition even while diverging from it. I cannot imagine him writing a book like David Stove's The Plato Cult. His approach in philosophy is direct, realistic, ontological, nonlinguistic. He is also traditional in that he sees an important role for philosophy. He is far from scientism as I tried to make clear in my earlier post.
A final observation. Armstrong's is a disinterested search for truth. He is like Aristotle in that regard. One cannot imagine his naturalism becoming a substitute religion for him.
The late David Malet Armstrong has a serious claim to being Australia's greatest philosopher. His life work is summed up in his Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics (Oxford UP, 2010). It is from the Introduction to this slim volume that I draw the following précis of his naturalism.
Armstrong on Naturalism
1. Naturalism for Armstrong is the thesis that "all that exists is the space-time world . . . ." The space-time world is the physical world. The thesis, then, is that reality is exhausted by the physical world.
2. Naturalism is an assumption: it is assumed to be true.
3. Armstrong admits that he has no argument for naturalism except that it is a position that many would accept, both philosophers and non-philosophers. There is no philosophical reasoning whereby one could prove that any metaphysical scheme, including naturalism, is correct. To think otherwise is "folly." I agree. One cannot prove naturalism or any form of anti-naturalism.
4. Armstrong also describes naturalism as an "hypothesis," one that many would accept as plausible. "The space-time entity seems obviously to exist. Other suggested beings seem much more hypothetical." (1)
5. Though naturalism cannot be proven, one can attempt to develop it into a coherent vision of the fundamental structure of the world or of the general nature of things, a vision (his word) that can then be put into competition with other visions. The development of a vision of things will involve argumentation but also bare assertion. "I argue where I can, but at times I simply assert."
6. The exclusion of so-called abstract entities or abstract objects such as mathematical sets, unexemplified universals, and numbers from the roster of the real is because of their lack of causal power. What causal role could they play? "And if they play no causal role it is hard to see how we can have good reasons for thinking that they exist." (2)
We ought to distinguish between
A. To exist is to be capable of entering into causal relations
B. We have no good reasons for postulating entities that are incapable of entering into causal relations.
Armstrong affirms (B), but he also seems committed to (A) since (A) is entailed by naturalism. Naturalism is the view that reality is exhausted by the space-time world, the view that nothing exists except what exists in the space-time world. Given that the space-time world is a world of causal interactions, it follows that all and only that which is causally active/passive exists. If you are an Armstrongian naturalist, then you cannot posit such causally inert entities as mathematical sets even if there are some good reasons for postulating them.
7. The space-time world, the physical world, is Wilfrid Sellars' world of the scientific image, not that of the manifest image. It is therefore the task of physics, or perhaps total natural science, to tell us what the physical world, and thus all of reality, is like.
8. Now if naturalism is true and physics (or total science) informs us as to nature's laws and properties, why do we need metaphysics? Why isn't physics all the metaphysics we need? Why shouldn't we embrace both the ontological thesis of naturalism and the epistemological thesis of scientism? After all, they seem to go together. If all that exists is the system of space-time-matter, and physics tells us what there is to know about it, then what room is there for metaphysics?
There is room for metaphysics according to Armstrong because we need a systematic account of such topic-neutral notions as cause, class, property, relation, quality, kind, resemblance, quantity, number, substance, fact, truth, law of nature, power, and others.
For example, common experience and the sciences inform us as to what causes what, but not as to what causation is. What is causation? What distinguishes a causal from a noncausal event sequence? Is causation 'in the objects' mere regular succession as Hume thought (or as Hume is often taken to have thought)? Or is there more to it? And what is that more? Does the cause produce the effect? Does the cause bring the effect into existence? Can x cause y even if the x-y sequence does not instantiate any regularity? What are the relata of the causal relation? Can a substance be a causal relatum? Is causation a relation at all? And so on. All of these are questions in metaphysics (ontology) for Armstrong.
So a thoroughgoing naturalist who restricts the real to the space-time system needn't embrace scientism; he can maintain that there is room for metaphysics in one sense of that ancient word: not an inquiry into what is beyond the physical or natural, but an inquiry into the deepest and most pervasive structures of the natural. (Armstrong does not mention scientism or make the point I just made, but it clearly follows from what he says.
Why I am Not a Naturalist (A Brief Sketch)
Armstrong is surely right that one cannot prove naturalism. Equally, one cannot disprove it. But there reasons that make its rejection reasonable.
There are questions that naturalism cannot satisfactorily answer. Among them: Why does anything at all exist? Or, more precisely, why does anything contingent at all exist? The space-time system exists and it exists contingently -- there is no logical or metaphysical necessity that there be a space-time system at all, or the precise one that we find ourselves in. But the space-time entity, as Armstrong calls it, lacks the resources to explain its own existence. I won't argue this here, but I have in other places. There are also good reasons to reject the suggestion that the space-time system exists as a matter of brute fact.
Deeper than the question, Why does anything at all exist? is the question, What is it for any contingent thing to exist? Does Armstrong have an answer for this question? Surely it is a central question of metaphysics. We cannot decide what exists or why anything exists unless we know what it is for something to exist. He doesn't deal with it as far as I know, but he does seem to have an implicit answer, (A) above which can also be formulated as follows:
A*. For any x, x exists iff x is possibly such as to be either a cause or an effect.
A**. For any x, x exists iff x has the power to bring about a change in itself or in another or the liability to have a change brought about in it.
But even if these biconditionals are true, they presuppose existence rather than accounting for it. A thing cannot have a causal power or a causal liability or stand in a relation unless it 'already' (logically speaking) exists. What makes a thing exist, therefore, cannot be its having a power or liability or its standing in a relation.
Long story short, A's naturalism has no satisfactory answer to either of my existence questions.
And then there are questions about mind, questions about consciousness, qualia, intentionality, reason, and the like. They notoriously resist naturalistic treatment. Armstrong, who is famous for his intellectual honesty, readily admits this:
I do not know how to refute the claim that intentionality is an irreducible phenomenon, a phenomenon that is something different from the physical processes in the brain. So in my philosophy of mind I face difficulties from the alleged qualia and from the phenomenon of intentionality that seem rather greater than anything I am aware of in the rest of my ontological scheme. (115)
That naturalism is not compelling is also evident from the fact that naturalists disagree bitterly among themselves as to what shape it should take. Some naturalists want to countenance abstracta while others are eliminativists about the mind.
But I don't reject naturalism simply because it does not have satisfactory answers to all the questions that need answering; I also reject it on the basis of all the experiences (mystical, religious, paranormal) that point to, though they do not prove, what William James calls the "reality of the unseen." Such experiences by themselves may not cut much ice, but in conjunction with an array of rigorous arguments against naturalism and an array of rigorous argments for some form or anti-naturalism, they play an important role in a cumulative case argument for the reasonableness of anti-naturalism.
But before getting on to the greaseball crooners, a bit of R & R history. London Ed reminds me that today, the 5th of July, 2014, is the 60th anniversary of the recording of Elvis Presley's That's Alright, Mama, his first commercial record. It was written and first recorded by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup in 1946. Some say that Presley's recording is the first rock and roll record. Others give the palm to the 1951 Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Kings. The associated video features footage (and 'leggage') of Bettie Page, that innocent and unwitting sex kitten of the '50s. She got religion big time later on, as did Dion Dimucci, but that's another and another Saturday Night at the Oldies . . . .
In his latest NRO column, Spencer Case argues that "The feminist left is politicizing philosophy." I would add that this is but a special case of the general truth that the Left politicizes everything.
Our Czech friend Lukas Novak sent me a paper in which, drawing upon John Duns Scotus, he rejects the following principle of reference:
(PR) It is impossible to refer to that which is not.
In this entry I will first pull some quotations from Novak's paper and then raise some questions about the view he seems to be endorsing.
I. Novak's Scotistic View
Scotus’ position can be simply characterized as a consistent rejection of the PR . . . . According to Scotus, the objects of any intentional relations . . . simply are not required to have any ontological status whatsoever, or, as Scotus puts it, any esse verum. The “being” expressed by the predicates exploited by Francis, like “to be known” (esse cognitum), “to be intelligible” (esse intelligibile), “to be an image of a paradigm” (esse exemplatum), “to be represented” (esse repraesentatum) and the like, is not real or true in any way, irrespectively of whether the relation involved concerns God or man.
[. . .]
It is not necessary to assume any esse essentiae in objects of knowledge: instead, Scotus speaks of “esse deminutum” here, but he points out emphatically that this “diminished being” is being only “secundum quid”, i.e., in an improper, qualified sense – this is the point of Scotus’ famous criticism of Henry of Ghent laid out in the unique question of dist. 36 of the first book of his Ordinatio. If you look for some real being in the object of intellection that it should have precisely in virtue of being such an object, there is none to be found. The only real being to be found here is the real being of the intellection, to which the esse deminutum of the intellected object is reduced:
[. . .]
In other words: if we were to make something like an inventory of reality, we should not list any objects having mere esse deminutum. By speaking about objects in intelligible being we do not take on any ontological commitment (to use the Quinean language) over and above the commitment to the existence of the intellections directed to these objects.
[. . .]
And now the crucial point: it is precisely this intelligibility, imparted to the objects by the divine intellect, what [that] makes human conceiving of the same objects possible, irrespectively of whether they have any real being or not:
[. . .]
In other words: the most fundamental reason why the PR is false is, according to Scotus, the fact that a sufficient condition of the human capacity to refer to something is the intelligibility of that something. This intelligibility, however, is bestowed on things in virtue of their being conceived, prior to creation, by the absolute divine intellect. This divine conceiving, however, neither produces nor presupposes any genuine being in the objects; for it is a universal truth that cognition is an immanent operation, one whose effect remains wholly in its subject (and so does not really affect its object) – in this elementary point divine cognition is not different. Accordingly, objects need not have any being whatsoever in order to be capable of being referred to. (emphasis added)
II. Some Questions and Comments
As a matter of fact we do at least seem to refer to nonexistent objects and say things about them, true and false. Alexius von Meinong's celebrated goldner Berg, golden mountain, may serve as an example. The golden mountain is made of gold; it is a mountain; it does not exist; it is an object of my present thinking; it is indeterminate with respect to height; it is 'celebrated' as it were among connoisseurs of this arcana; it is Meinong's favorite example of a merely possible individual; it -- the very same one I am talking about now -- was discussed by Kasimir Twardowski, etc.
Now if this seeming to refer is an actual referring, if we do refer to the nonexistent in thought and overt speech, then it is possible that we do so. Esse ad posse valet illatio. But how the devil is it possible that we do so? (PR) is extremely plausible: it is difficult to understand how there could be reference to that which has no being, no esse, whatsoever.
If I understand Novak, he wants a theory that satisfies the following desiderata or criteria of adequacy
D1. Possibilism is to be avoided. We cannot maintain that the merely possible has any sort of being.
D2. Actualist ersatzism is to be avoided. We cannot maintain that there are actual items such as Plantingian haecceities that stand in for mere possibilia.
D3. The phenomenological fact that intentionality is relational or at least quasi-relational is to be respected and somehow accommodated. No adverbial theories!
D4. Eliminativism about intentionality/reference is to be avoided. Intentionality is real!
D5. Nominalist reductionism according to which reference is a merely intralinguistic phenomenon is to be avoided. When I refer to something, whether existent or nonexistent, I am getting outside of language!
Novak does not list these desiderata; I am imputing them to him. He can tell me if my imputation is unjust. In any case, I accept (D1)-(D5): an adequate theory must satisfy these demands. Now how does Novak's theory satisfy them?
Well, he brings God into the picture. Some will immediately cry deus ex machina! But I think Novak can plausibly rebut this charge. If God is brought on the stage in an ad hoc manner to get us out of a jam, then a deus ex machina objection has bite. But Novak and his master Scotus have independent reasons for positing God. See my substantial post on DEM objections in philosophy, here.
Suppose we have already proven, or at least given good reasons for, the existence of God. Then he can be put to work. Or, as my esteemed teacher J. N. Findlay once said, "God has his uses."
So how does it work? It is sufficient for x to be an object of thought or reference by us that it be intelligible. This intelligibility derives from the divine intellect who, prior to creation, conceives of such items as the golden mountain. But this conceiving does not impart to them any real being. Nor does it presuppose that they have any real being. In themselves, they have no being at all. God's conceiving of nonexistent objects is a wholly immanent operation the effect of which remains wholly within the subject of the operation, namely, the divine mind. And yet the nonexistent objects acquire intelligibility. It is this intelligibility that makes it possible for us finite minds to think the nonexistent without it being the case that nonexistent objects have any being at all.
That is the theory, assuming I have understood it. And it does seem to satisfy the desiderata with the possible exception of (D3). But here is one concern. The theory implies that when I think about the golden mountain I am thinking about an operation wholly immanent to the divine intellect. But that is not what I seem to be thinking about. What I seem to be thinking about has very few properties (being golden, being a mountain) and perhaps their analytic entailments, and no hidden properties such as the property of being identical to an operation wholly immanent to the divine intellect. An intentional object has precisely, all and only, the properties it is intended as having.
Connected with this concern is the suspicion that on Novak's theory the act-object distinction is eliminated, a distinction that is otherwise essential to his approach. He wants to deny that merely intentional objects have any being of their own. So he identifies them with divine conceivings. But this falls afoul of a point insisted on by Twardowski. (See article below.)
My merely imagined table does not exist in reality, 'outside' my mind. But it also does not exist 'in' my mind as identical to the act of imagining it or as a proper part of the act of imagining it, or as any sort of mental content, as Twardowski clearly saw. Otherwise, (i) the merely imagined table would have the nature of an experience, which it does not have, and (ii) it would exist in reality, when it doesn't, and (iii) it would have properties that cannot be properties of mental acts or contents such as the property of being spatially extended.
My point could be put like this. The typical merely intentional, hence nonexistent, object such as the golden mountain does not have the nature of an experience or mental act; it is an object of such an act. But if merely intentional objects are divine conceivings, then they have the nature of an experience. Ergo, etc. Novak's theory appears to fall into psychologism.
The Supreme Court justices in the majority in the 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision are all male: Alito, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy. If someone seeks to discredit their decision on that ground, say this:
Arguments don't have testicles!
If the person persists, then point out that females dominated the minority in that decision.
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, to decide.
It is appropriate that on Independence Day one should celebrate with Serling, WWII paratrooper, anti-statist, defender of the individual.
Serling knew how to entertain while also stimulating thought and teaching moral lessons. Our contemporary dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
When we got back to our apartment, I turned on my computer to check the news, and learned of the pair of decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. That both decisions are disastrous goes without saying, but I think they have quite different significances.
The Hobby Lobby decision granting to certain businesses the legal right to claim protection of their "religious beliefs" against The Affordable Care Act is by any measure the more grotesque of the two, and Justice Ginsburg is clearly correct in warning that the majority has opened the door to an endless series of meretricious claims of conscience by those fictional persons we call corporations. Only someone with Marx's mordant satirical bent could fully appreciate the decision to confer personhood on corporations while robbing actual persons of the elementary right to medical protection.
I beg to differ. First of all, the SCOTUS decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was not that personhood is to be conferred on corporations. That had already been settled by the Dictionary Act enacted in 1871. Here we read:
The Dictionary Act states that “the words ‘person’ and ‘whoever’ include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”12
The question the court had to decide was whether closely held, for-profit corporations are persons under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act . "RFRA states that “[the] Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”3 (Ibid.)
If Hobby Lobby is forced by the government to provide abortifacients to its employees, and Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law, then the government's Affordable Care Act mandate is in violation of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. For it would substantially burden Hobby Lobby's proprietors' exercise of religion if they were forced to violate their own consciences by providing the means of what they believe to be murder to their employees. So the precise question that had to be decided was whether Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law. The question was NOT whether corporations are persons in the eyes of the law. Wolff is wrong if he thinks otherwise.
Note that the issue here is not constitutional but statutory: the issue has solely to do with the interpretation and application of a law, RFRA. As Alan Dershowitz explains (starting at 7:52), it has to do merely with the "construction of a statute."
Not only was the SCOTUS decision not a decision to confer personhood on corporations, it also does not entail "robbing actual persons of the elementary right to medical protection." And this, even if (i) there is a positive right to be given medical treatments, drugs, appliances, and whatnot, and (ii) abortion is a purely medical procedure that affects no person other than a pregnant woman. See Dershowitz.
Nicotine is the main psychoactive ingredient in tobacco, and a most delightful and useful ingredient it is, especially for us Luftmenschen. I am thinking of the chess players who make Luft, not war, and of the philosophers whose thoughts are characteristically lofty and luftig even if at times nebelig. Nicotine is good for cognitive functioning, increasing both memory and attention. Studies on humans and lab animals show this to be the case. But we connoisseurs of the noble weed know this to be so without the help of studies. Experientia docet.
The drawback, of course, is that nicotine may be the most highly addictive substance on earth–more addictive than crack cocaine or heroin, and a more difficult addiction to shake, Rezvani said.
Why is that? First, it binds with the receptors in the brain for acetylcholine, one of our most important neurotransmitters and the first ever discovered. Second, because nicotine is usually inhaled, via cigarettes and now e-cigarettes, it hits the brain almost immediately.
“One reason for it being so addictive is that as soon as you smoke, you see the reward,” Rezvani said. The same is true of crack cocaine, he said.
The quotation 'smacks' of wild liberal exaggeration. It reeks of the Big Lie. People have been parroting that Everett Koop line for years. Remember that bow-tied sawbones who occupied the most useless office in the land, that of Surgeon General, from 1981 to 1989? Surely it is nonsense to say that nicotine is more addictive than heroin or crack cocaine. In fact, I will go one better: It is not addictive in any serious sense at all. But of course it all depends on what exactly is meant by 'addiction,' a word I have yet to see any anti-tobacco ideologue explain. It is a word that is used and overused and abused in all sorts of promiscuous connections.
You say you're addicted to nicotine? Well, if I paid you a million dollars to go one month without smoking, would you be able to do it? Of course you would. But if you had been shooting heroin daily for years and were addicted, and I made the same offer, would you be able to collect? No way! This is of course an empirical question, but some empirical questions can be answered from the armchair. This assumes that you have experience of life and some common sense, a commodity in short supply among liberals. It would be very interesting to set up an experiment, but you would need some moneybags to bankroll it. Anybody out there want to pony up 200 million USD? Do the experiment using 100 two-pack per day cigarette smokers and 100 heroin addicts who shoot up daily. You get a million bucks if you go a month without indulging. You will of course be under close surveillance. I predict the following outcome. 90 - 100% of the smokers but only 0-10% of the 'smackers' would collect.
And now for some anecdotal evidence, which is, after all, evidence: 'anecdotal' is not here functioning as an alienans adjective.
I have been smoking cigars and pipes for 45 years or so. Time was when I smoked two loads of pipe tobacco per diem, all the way down, and it was strong stuff. In Turkey where I lived for a year in the '90s I bought a Meerschaum pipe and I smoked an unconscionable quantity of the meanest shit there is, straight Turkish. Stateside the stuff is used sparingly as a seasoning in blends. I don't recommend it straight. Might blow your head clean off. Mine is still intact, thank you very much.
Now here's my point: if nicotine is addictive, then surely I ought to be addicted. But I'm not. I smoke only when I decide to, nowadays, less than one cigar per week. But I smoke the sucker down to the bitter end, reducing the whole of it to smoke and ashes. "But doesn't it burn your fingertips?" Not if I tamp it down into a smoking pipe. The finale is mighty rasty and loaded with nicotine. And I am still not addicted.
I am not an isolated exception. There are all the two-pack-a day cigarette smokers who just up and quit of their free will without a federal program or a 'patch' or somebody holding their hand. I'm thinking of my father, and aunts and uncles, and brother-in-law, and hundreds of others. And they smoked unfiltered Camels and Lucky Strikes, not the pussy brands abroad in the land today.
Now suppose I was smoking crack cocaine or mainlining heroin for the last 45 years. I'd mostly like be dead, but if I weren't I would be addicted in a serious sense of that word. So there is just no comparison. It's a bullshit comparison that only a willfully nescient liberal could love.
Can you call a substance 'addictive' if only some people become 'addicted' to it? I say No. In the case of nicotine, it is not the substance that is addictive but the user who allows himself of his own free will to become 'addicted.' (Those are 'sneer' quotes by the way.) You say you have an 'addictive personality'? I'm going to question that too. You are most likely just looking for an excuse. Why not say you lack self-discipline and that you refuse to take yourself in hand; that instead of doing those things, you blame your problems on something outside of yourself, whether tobacco or tobacco companies, or 'society'?
The case for nicotine, then, is that it is a sovereign enhancer of cognitive functioning. And you can get it without smoking cigarettes or using snuff. I recommend that you stay away from cigarettes and snuff.
There is a lot to say on this topic and lot of liberal nonsense to dispose of. But I'll end today with this aphorism:
The church of liberalism must have its demon and his name is 'tobacco.'
I started to take the quiz but then quit in disgust after the first two questions.
Here is the first question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
I would say that both statements are true. That some government regulation is necessary is obviously true. But that many types of regulation makes things worse is also the case, though it is not as obvious. What does it even mean to ask which of these comes closest to my view? The rational thing to do is reject the question as poorly defined.
Here is the second question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most.
Again, both of these statements are true, at least in the USA at the present time. The second statement is obviously true. Success is not guaranteed for anyone. You could be doing everything right and be killed by a drunk driver. In every success there is some element of luck. The first statement is not as clearly true, but it too is true. Again, there is the problem of what 'comes closest' even means. I am a conservative and so you will expect me to plump for the first statement. But the second is one that every sane person must accept. So in one sense of 'closest' the second is closest to my view. In another sense, the first is closest, because it is more characteristic of my view. A near-certainty that everyone must accept on pain of being irrational is not characteristic of any political view. Capiche?
Not all of the question pairs display the faults of the first two. They display others such as false alternative. And a few, I grant, are well-formulated. #20 for example:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
These statements cannot both be true, and there is no false alternative: it must be that one of them is true.
Then stop trying to 'help' them. Excellent advice for liberals from a black man, Jason Riley. The Left will of course denounce him as an Uncle Tom, an 'oreo,' a traitor to his race, among other things. But that is all the more reason to read him with close attention. Leftists cannot abide anyone who talks sense. Here is Riley on the Zimmerman case.
But first one who didn't. An early manager suggested to Frank Sinatra that he adopt the stage name 'Frankie Satin.' Sinatra would have none of that bullshit. He did things his way. You got a problem with that? That's Life.
Margaret Battavio (Little Peggy March), I Will Follow Him. This one goes out to the sycophants of the Ladderman.
Frank Castelluccio (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons), Can't Take My Eyes Off of You. Dawn.Walk Like a Man. Wifey and I saw Jersey Boys, the movie, and enjoyed it immensely. Here's the trailer. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Gets a lot of the period details right, like women's slacks with the zipper up the back. See how many period references you can identify. Topo Gigio. The Blob. Etc.
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.
Too many of the academic philosophers of consciousness are overly concerned with the paltriest aspects of consciousness, so-called qualia, and work their tails off trying to convince themselves and others that they are no threat to physicalism.
While man's nobility lies in the power of thought whereby he traverses all of time and existence, our materialists labor mightily to make physicalism safe for the smell of cooked onions.
Although the world runs on appearances, a fact well to be heeded by anyone who plans to hang out long in these sublunary precincts, the task of the philosopher is to penetrate seemings, whence we may conclude that it is unseemly for a philosopher to be much concerned with the seemly and the unseemly.
What follows is an old post from about ten years ago worth dusting off in the light of current events. If 'true' admits of degrees, what I say below is truer now than it was then. Just two of several current examples. Barack Obama, the most Left-leaning president in U. S. history, traded Bowe Bergdahl for five of the worst Gitmo terrorists. Was that a prudent thing to do? Only someone who is blind to a clear and present danger could do something so utterly irresponsible. The second example is the Iraq pullout, the effect of which, whether intended or not, is to make the whole region safe for ISIS. Anyone with his head screwed on right would have seen that coming. But not a leftist insensitive to danger. I could go on, the Southern border . . . .
Conservatives take a sober view of human nature. They admit and celebrate the human capacity for good, but cannot bring themselves to ignore the practically limitless human capacity for evil. They cannot dismiss the lessons of history, especially the awful lessons of the 20th century, the lessons of Gulag and Vernichtungslager. They know that evil is not a contingent blemish that can be isolated and removed, but has ineradicable roots reaching deep into human nature. The fantasies of Rousseau and Marx get no grip on them. Conservatives know that it is not the state, or society, or institutions that corrupt human beings, but that it is the logically antecedent corruption of human nature that makes necessary state, social, and institutional controls. The timber of humanity is inherently and irremediably crooked; it was not first warped by state, social, or institutional forces, and cannot be straightened by any modification or elimination of these forces.
I used the word 'know' a couple of times, which may sound tendentious. How do conservatives know that evil is not a contingent blemish, or that human beings are so fundamentally flawed that no human effort can usher in utopia?
They know this from experience. But although experience teaches us what is the case, and what has been the case, does it teach what must be the case? Here the lefties may have wiggle room. They can argue that failure to achieve a perfect society does not conclusively show that a perfect society cannot be achieved. This is true. But repeated failures add up to a strong inductive case. And these failures have been costly indeed. The Communists murdered an estimated 100 million in their social experiments. They did not hesitate to break eggs on a massive scale in quest of an omelet that never materialized. They threw out 'bourgeois' morality, but this did not lead to some higher morality but to utter barbarity.
I would also argue that experience can sometimes teach us what must be the case. We have a posteriori knowledge of the essential (as opposed to accidental) properties of some things. These are tough epistemological questions that I mention here only to set aside.
The main point I want to make is that the Left is insensitive to danger because of its Pollyannish view of human beings as intrinsically good. Leftists tend to downplay serious threats. They are blind to the radical evil in human nature. This attitude is betrayed by their obfuscatory use of the phrase 'Red Scare'to the very real menace the USSR posed to the USA in the 1950's and beyond. It wasn't that conservatives were scared, but that the Soviets were making threats. This is now particularly clear from the Venona decrypts, the Mitrokhin archives, and other sources. I especially recommend reading Ronald Radosh on the Rosenberg case.
The Left's insensitivity to danger is also betrayed by their attitude toward the present Islamo-terrorist threat. They just can't seem to take it seriously, as witness their incessant complaining about the dangers to civil liberties after the 9/11/01 attacks. There is something deeply perverse about their attitude. They must realize that a liberty worth wanting requires security as a precondition. See my Liberty and Security for an exfoliation of this idea. But if they grasp this, why the unreasonable and excessive harping on individual liberties in a time of national peril? Don't they understand that theliberties we all cherish are worthless to one who is being crushed beneath a pile of burning rubble? How could Katrina van den Heuvel on C-Span the other day refer to Bush's playing of the 'terror card'? Such talk is border-line delusional.
It is as if they think that conservatives want to curtail civil liberties, and have seized upon the 9/11 attacks to have an excuse to do so. In the lunatic world of the leftist a conservative is a 'fascist' -- to use their favorite term of abuse. This is absurd: it is precisely conservatives who aim to conserve civil liberties, including the politically incorrect ones such as gun rights.
Terrorists and the rogue states that sponsor them pose a very real threat to our security, and this threat must be faced and countered even if it requires a temporary abridgement of certain liberties. Thatis what happens in war time. Leftists ought to admit that it is precisely their insensitivity to the threat posed by such Islamo-terrorists as Osama bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks in the first place. If a proper response had been made to the 1993 World Trade Tower attack, the 2001 attack might never have occurred. We were attacked because we were perceived as weak and decadent, and we were perceived as weak and decadent because leftists in the government failed to take seriously the terrorist threat.
It must be realized that liberty without security is worthless. Genuine liberty is liberty within a stable social and political order. I may have the liberty to leave my house any time of the day or night, but such a liberty is meaningless if I get mugged the minute I step out my door. So if the Left were really serious about liberty, it would demand adequate security measures.
But, while David has never aspired to put the world right by philosophy, the world for its part has not been equally willing to let him and philosophy alone in return. Quite the reverse. His tenure of the Chair turned out to coincide with an enormous attack on philosophy, and on humanistic learning in general: an attack which has proved to be almost as successful as it was unprecedented.
This attack was begun, as everyone knows, by Marxists, in support of North Vietnam’s attempt to extend the blessings of communism to the south. The resulting Marxisation of the Faculty of Arts was by no means as complete as the resulting Marxisation of South Vietnam. But the wound inflicted on humanistic learning was a very severe one all the same. You could properly compare it to a person’s suffering third-degree burns to 35 per cent of his body.
After the defeat of America in Vietnam, the attack was renewed, amplified, and intensified, by feminists. Their attack has proved far more devastating than that of the Marxists. Lenin once said, “If we go, we shall slam the door on an empty house”; and how well this pleasant promise has been kept by the Russian Marxists, all the world now knows. It is in exactly the same spirit of insane malignancy that feminists have waged their war on humanistic learning; and their degree of success has fallen not much short of Lenin’s. Of the many hundreds of courses offered to Arts undergraduates in this university, what proportion, I wonder, are now not made culturally-destructive, as well as intellectually null, by feminist malignancy and madness? One-third? I would love to believe that the figure is so high. But I cannot believe it.
David did all that he could have done, given the limits set by his position and his personality, to repel this attack. Of course he failed; but then, no one could have succeeded. What he did achieve was a certain amount of damage-limitation. Even this was confined to the philosophy-section of the front. On the Faculty of Arts as a whole, David has had no influence at all—to put it mildly. In fact, when he spoke at a meeting of the Faculty, even on subjects unrelated to the attack, you could always have cut the atmosphere with a knife. It is a curious matter, this: the various ways inferior people have, of indirectly acknowledging the superiority of others, even where no such acknowledgment is at all intended by the inferior, or expected by the superior.
By the end of 1972, the situation in the philosophy department had become so bad that the splitting of the department into two was the only way in which philosophy at this university could be kept alive at all. In this development, David was the leading spirit, as his position and personality made it natural he should be. Of course he did not do it on his own. Pat Trifonoff’s intelligence and character made her an important agent in it. Keith Campbell’s adhesion to our side, after some hesitation, was a critical moment. But while I and certain others were only casting about for some avenue of escape, David never gave up. He battled on, and battled on again, and always exacted the best terms, however bad, that could be got from the enemies of philosophy.
The result of the split was far more happy than could have been rationally predicted at the time. In fact it was a fitting reward for David’s courage and tenacity. For the first twenty years of the new Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy have been fertile in good philosophy, to a degree unparalleled in any similar period in this or any other Australian university. The department has also enjoyed a rare freedom from internal disharmony. As I have often said, it is the best club in the world, and to be or have been a member of it is a pleasure as well as a privilege.
There will certainly be no adequate official acknowledgment, from anyone inside the university, of what is owed to David. What could someone like the present Vice-Chancellor possibly care about the survival of humanistic learning, or even know about philosophy, or history, or literature? Anyone who did would never have got a Vice-Chancellor’s job in the first place. If there is any acknowledgment forthcoming from the Faculty of Arts, David will be able to estimate the sincerity of it well enough. It will be a case of people, who smiled as they watched him nearly drowning in the boiling surf of 1967–72, telling him how glad they were when, against all probability, he managed to make it to the beach.
But anyone who does know and care about philosophy, or does care about the survival of humanistic learning, will feel towards him something like the degree of gratitude which they ought to feel.
Imagine a German restaurant so named. Blood and Soil. My astute readers needn't be reminded of the provenience of this phrase. "Best blood sausage in the East Valley!" Or MOM's Diner of Mesa. "Fine Aryan cuisine served up right by members of the militia of Montana." Would you be offended? I just made up those examples.
But this is a real example: La Raza Steak and Ribs, a Mexican joint in Apache Junction, Arizona. When I mentioned this to a friend, he replied, "That would be like naming a German restaurant Die Rasse, The Race."
Once again, the double standard. And once again I ask: what would be left of the Left were they disembarrassed of every single one of their double standards?
I have read your latest post on truthmakers. Among other things, you mention [David] Armstrong's view on abstract objects. As I read elsewhere (not in Armstrong own works, I have not read anything by him yet) he was realist about universals and gives a very voluminous defense of his view. Does this view entail realism about abstract objects?
I think that Quine was realist about abstract objects and at the same time naturalist and also holds that his Platonism was consequence of his naturalized ontology. Moreover, I have the impression that several preeminent analytic philosophers hold realist views on abstract objects, mostly under influences from Quine and in a smaller degree from Putnam.
Do Armstrong's views about universals entail realism about abstract objects?
No, they do not. Rejecting extreme nominalism, Armstrong maintains that there are properties. (I find it obvious that there properties, a Moorean fact, though I grant that it is not entirely obvious what is obvious.) Armstrong further maintains that properties are universals (repeatables), not particulars (unrepeatables) as they would be if properties were tropes. But his is a theory of immanent universals. This means two things. First, it means that there are no unexemplified universals. Second, it means that universals are constituents of the individuals (thick particulars) that 'have' them. In Wolterstorff's terminology, Armstrong is a constituent ontologist as opposed to a relation ontologist. His universals are ontological parts of the things that 'have' them; they are not denizens of a realm apart only related by an asymmetrical exemplification tie to the things that have them.
So for Armstrong universals are immanent in two senses: (a) they cannot exist unexemplified, and (b) they enter into the structure of ordinary (thick) particulars. It follows that his universals are not abstract objects on the Quinean understanding of abstract objects as neither spatial nor temporal nor causally active/passive. For given (b), universals are where and when the things that have them are, and induce causal powers in these things. And yet they are universals, immanent universals: ones-in-many, not ones-over-many. Some philosophers, including Armstrong, who are not much concerned with historical accuracy, call them 'Aristotelian' universals.
Does Armstrong reject all abstract objects?
Yes he does. Armstrong is a thorough-going naturalist. Reality is exhausted by space-time and the matter that fills it. Hence there is nothing outside of space-time, whether abstract (causally inert) or concrete (causally active/passive). No God, no soul capable of disembodied existence, or embodied existence for that matter, no unexemplified universals, not even exemplified nonconstituent universals, no Fregean propositions, no numbers, no mathematical sets, and of course no Meinongian nonenties.
How do Armstrong and Quine differ on sets or classes?
For Quine, sets are abstract entities outside space and time. They are an addition to being, even in those cases in which the members of a set are concreta. Thus for Quine, Socrates' singleton is an abstract object in addition to the concrete Socrates. For Armstrong, sets supervene upon their members. They are not additions to being. Given the members, the class or set adds nothing ontologically. Sets are no threat to a space-time ontology. (See D. M. Armstrong, Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics, Oxford UP, 2010, p. 8.)
What about the null set or empty class?
For Armstrong, there is no such entity. "It would be a strange addition to space-time!" he blusters. (Sketch, p. 8, n. 1). Armstrong makes a bad mistake in that footnote. He writes, "Wade Martin has reminded me about the empty class which logicians make a member of every class." Explain the mistake in the ComBox. Explain it correctly and I'll buy you dinner at Tres Banderas.
Are both Quine and Armstrong naturalists?
Yes. The Australian is a thorough-going naturalist: there is nothing that is not a denizen of space-time. The American, for reasons I can't go into, countenances some abstract objects, sets. It is a nice question, which is more the lover of desert landscapes.
You are sliding down a mountain towards certain death. Your only hope is to grab the rope that is thrown to you. Will you refuse to do so because the rope might break? Will you first inquire into the reliability of the rope or the credibility of the assurances of the one who would be your savior?
If you accept truthmakers, and two further principles, then you can maintain that a deductive argument is valid just in case the truthmakers of its premises suffice to make true its conclusion. Or as David Armstrong puts it in Sketch of a Systematic Metaphysics (Oxford UP, 2010), p. 66,
In a valid argument the truthmaker for the conclusion is contained in the truthmaker for the premises. The conclusion needs no extra truthmakers.
For this account of validity to work, two further principles are needed, Truthmaker Maximalism and the Entailment Principle.Truthmaker Maximalism is the thesis that every truth has a truthmaker. Although I find the basic truthmaker intuition well-nigh irresistible, I have difficulty with the notion that every truth has a truthmaker. Thus I question Truthmaker Maximalism. (The hyperlinked entry sports a fine photo of Peter L.)
Armstrong, on the other hand, thinks that "Maximalism flows from the idea of correspondence and I am not willing to give up on the idea that correspondence with reality is necessary for any truth." (63) Well, every cygnet is a swan. Must there be something extramental and extralinguistic to make this analytic truth true? And let's not forget that Armstrong has no truck with so-called abstract objects. His brand of naturalism excludes them. So he can't say that there are the quasi-Platonic properties being a cygnet and being a swan with the first entailing the second, and that this entailment relation is the truthmaker of 'Every cygnet is a swan.'
The Entailment Principle runs as follows:
Suppose that a true proposition p entails a proposition q. By truthmaker Maximalism p has a truthmaker. According to the Entailment Principle, it follows that this truthmaker for p is also a truthmaker for q. [. . .] Note that this must be an entailment. If all that is true is that p --> q, the so-called material conditional, then this result does not follow.
I would accept a restricted Entailment Prinicple that does not presuppose Maximalism. To wit, if a proposition p has a truthmaker T, and p entails a proposition q, then T is also a truthmaker for q. For example, if Achilles' running is the truthmaker of 'Achilles is running,' then, given that the proposition expressed by this sentence entails the proposition expressed by 'Achilles is on his feet,' Achilles' running is also the truthmaker of the proposition expressed by 'Achilles is on his feet.'