Properly enacted, independent thinking is not in the service of self-will or subjective opining, but in the service of submission to a higher authority, truth itself. We think for ourselves in order to find a truth that is not from ourselves, but from reality. The idea is to become dependent on reality, rather than on institutional and social distortions of reality. Independence subserves a higher dependence.
It is worth noting that thinking for oneself is no guarantee that one will arrive at truth. Far from it. The maverick's trail may issue in a dead end. Or it may not. The world is littered with conflicting opinions generated from the febrile heads of people with too much trust in their own powers. But neither is submission to an institution's authority any assurance of safe passage to the harbor of truth. Both the one who questions authority and the one who submits to it can end up on a reef. 'Think for yourself' and 'Submit to authority' are both onesided pieces of advice.
Here is the penultimate paragraph of John Lach's In Love with Life: Reflections on the Joy of Living and Why We Hate to Die (Vanderbilt UP, 1998):
When the time comes [to die], we must surround ourselves with life. In a bustling hospital or a loving home, let everyone get on with their [sic] activities. To die in the midst of energy is not to die at all, but to transfer one's life and hopes to those who carry on. The continuity of our lives and our personalities makes the death of any one individual an event of little moment: the great celebration of existence goes on. (p. 123)
This is an example of one sort of self-deception secularists fall into when they attempt to affirm the value of life. If this is it, it is at least a serious question whether this life can be ascribed a positive value. One doesn't have to go all the way with Schopenhauer to appreciate that this life with its manifold miseries and horrors and injustices is of dubious value. It is certainly not obvious that "Life is good" as one sees emblazoned on the spare tire covers of SUVs in the tonier neighborhoods.
One response to the evils of the world is denial of such facts as are adduced by Schopenhauer:
The truth is, we ought to be wretched and we are so. The chief source of the serious evils which affect men is man himself: homo homini lupus. Whoever keeps this last fact clearly in view beholds the world as a hell, which surpasses that of Dante in this respect, that one man must be the devil of another. (The Will to Live, p. 204)
Judging from the above passage, Lachs appears to be in denial. Surely the following is a silly and well-nigh meaningless assurance: " To die in the midst of energy is not to die at all, but to transfer one's life and hopes to those who carry on." So if I die in the midst of energetic people I haven't died? That is false to the point of being delusional, a flat denial of the fact of death. It is an evasion of the fact and finality of death. And it is nonsense to say that at death "one's life" is transferred to others. One's life is one's individual life; on a secular understanding it ceases to exist at death. It is nontransferrable. As for the "celebration of existence," try explaining that to Syrian refugees or to those who at this very moment are being tortured to death.
Other secularists such as Adorno deny value in a manner most extreme to this present life, but look to the future of this life for redemption. This too is delusional in my judgment. See After Auschwitz.
Secularists need to face the problem of evil. This is not a problem for theists only. It is a problem for anyone who affirms the value of life. If the fact of evil is evidence (whether demonstrative or inductive) of the nonexistence of God, then it is also evidence of the nonaffirmability of this life.
Philosophers should be sure to avail themselves of the Transcendental Deduction this year as it has been substantially increased, the truculent opposition of the NRA (National Realist Association) notwithstanding. But to take the deduction philosophers will need the Platonic Form. Be advised that attempts to copy the Platonic Form have been known to cause the dreaded glitch commonly referred to as the Third (Tax) Man.
Years ago an acquaintance wrote me about a book he had published which, he said, had "made quite a splash." The metaphor is unfortunately double-edged. When an object hits the water it makes a splash. But only moments later the water returns to its quiescent state as if nothing had happened. So it is an apt metaphor. It captures both the immediate significance of an event and its long-term insignificance.
In his magisterial Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown writes of Augustine, "He wanted complete certainty on ultimate questions." (1st ed., p. 88) If you don't thrill to that line, you are no philosopher. Compare Edmund Husserl: "Ohne Gewissheit kann ich eben nicht leben." "I just can't live without certainty." Yet he managed to live for years after penning that line into his diary, and presumably without certainty.
I would say that the ability to tolerate uncertainty without abandoning the quest for certainty is a mark of intellectual and spiritual maturity. A truth seeker who can tolerate uncertainty is one who will not seek false refuge in dogmas that provide pseudo-certainty. I cannot help but think of Islamo-terrorism in this connection. Had Muhammad Atta and the boys entertained some doubts about the bevy of black-eyed virgins awaiting them at the portals of paradise, they and three thousand others might still be alive.
The trick is to tolerate uncertainty without becoming either a skeptic or a dogmatist.
There is a difference between subjective and objective certainty. If subject S is subjectively certain that p, it does not follow that p is true. That would follow only if S were objectively certain that p. But objective certainty appears attainable only with respect to one's own mental states. I am both subjectively and objectively certain that I have a headache now. This is because the esse of the headache = its percipi. Its being is its being perceived. It therefore cannot be intelligibly supposed that I merely seem to have a headache now, while in reality I do not. With respect to a physical object or state, however, appearance and reality can come apart, and what is subjectively certain can turn out to be false: my seeming to see a mountain is no guarantee that there is a mountain. My seeming to feel elated, however, just is my being elated.
What about states of affairs that involve neither mental data nor physical objects? If S is subjectively certain that torture is always morally impermissible, and T is subjectively certain that torture is sometimes morally permissible, then one of the two must be wrong, which shows that subjective certainty is no proof of objective certainty.
What about this last proposition however, namely, the proposition that apart from mental states, subjective certainty does not entail objective certainty? Is its truth merely subjectively certain, or is it also objectively certain? It is objectively certain. One sees that subjective certainty can exist without objective certainty from the fact that two subjects, S and T, can be subjectively certain of contradictory propositions. Here the mind grasps a truth about a state of affairs transcendent of one's mental state and does so with objective certainty.
I conclude that there are some propositions the truth of which can be grasped with objective certainty even though these propositions are not about such mental data as pleasures and pains. The mind has the power to transcend its own states and not only to know, but to know with objective certainty, truths whose truth is independent of mind. That is amazing.
One some days, existence strikes me as the deepest and most fascinating of philosophical topics. On other days, I give the palm to time: "What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know." (Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 11, Ch. 14) But today, the honor goes to knowledge.
"Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world while at the same time detaching us from it." (From Journal Intime)
This is a penetrating observation, and a perfect specimen of the aphorist's art. It is terse, true, but not trite. The tip of an iceberg of thought, it invites exploration below the water line.
If the world were literally a dream, there would be no need to act in it or take it seriously. One could treat it as one who dreams lucidly can treat a dream: one lies back and enjoys the show in the knowledge that it is only a dream. But to the extent that I feel duty-bound to do this or refrain from that, I take the world to be real, to be more than maya or illusion. Feeling duty-bound, I help realize the world. It is an "unfinished universe" in a Jamesian phrase and I cannot play within it the role of mere spectator. I must play the agent as well; I must participate whether I like it or not, non-participation being but a definicient mode of participation. In a Sartrean phrase, I am "condemned to be free": I am free to do and leave undone, but my being free does not fall within the ambit of my freedom.
And to the extent that I feel duty-bound to do something, to make real what merely ought to be, I am referred to this positive world as to the locus of realization.
But just how real is the world of our ordinary waking experience? Is it the ne plus ultra of reality? Its manifest deficiency gives the lie to this supposition, which is why great philosophers from Plato to Bradley have denied ultimate reality to the sense world. Things are not the way they ought to be, and things are the way they ought not be, and everyone with moral sense feels this to be true. The Real falls short of the Ideal, and, falling short demonstrates its lack of plenary reality. So while the perception of duty realizes the world, it also and by the same stroke de-realizes it by measuring it against a standard from elsewhere.
The moral sense discloses a world poised between the unreality of the dream and the plenary reality of the Absolute. Plato had it right: the human condition is speleological and the true philosopher is a transcendental speleologist.
The sense of duty detaches us from the world of what is by referring us to what ought to be. What ought to be, however, in many cases is not; hence we are referred back to the world of what is as the scene wherein alone ideals can be realized.
It is a curious dialectic. The Real falls short of the Ideal and is what is is in virtue of this falling short. The Ideal, however, is only imperfectly realized here below. Much of the ideal lacks reality just as much of the Real lacks ideality. Each is what it is by not being what it is not. And we moral agents are caught in this interplay. We are citizens of two worlds and must play the ambassador between them.
Here is a question for those of you who champion the linguistic innovation, 'hylemorphic.' Will you also write 'morphelogical' and 'morphelogy'? If not, why not?
'Morphology' is superior to 'morphelogy' in point of euphony. For the same reason, 'hylomorphic' is superior to 'hylemorphic.'
But even if you disagree with my last point, you still have to explain why you don't apply your principle consistently.
Why don't you write and say 'morphelogy,' 'epistemelogy,' 'gelogy' (instead of 'geology'), etc.?
We linguistic conservatives are not opposed to change, but we are opposed to unnecessary changes. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Addendum (8 April 2014)
Patrick Toner writes:
Loved your post on the spelling of hylemorphism. I must disagree on the charge that the 'e' spelling is a novelty. I say this without any firsthand evidence. But Gideon Manning has a paper that covers the appearance of the term. According to him it showed up in English in 1888. By 1907, at least, there is an 'e' spelling of the term, in the translation of some scholastic volume into English. (DeWulf, maybe?) So both spellings go back almost all the way to the origin of the term in English. Manning himself uses the o spelling, but claims both are legitimate.
I make or imply essentially three claims in my post. The first is that the use of 'hylemorphism' is an innovation. I now see thanks to Toner that this claim is mistaken. So I withdraw it. The second claim is that 'hylomorphism' is superior to 'hylemorphism' in point of eupohony. I stick by this claim, though I admit it is somewhat subjective: one man's euphony is, if not another man's cacophany, then at least the other's non-euphony. The third claim is that the fans of 'hylemorphism' and cognates do not apply their principle consistently. For as far as I know they do not go on to say and write 'epistemelogy,' etc.
Here is a fourth point. Although the use of 'hylemorphism' and cognates is not wrong, and is not an absolute innovation (as Manning documents), it does diverge from the more common use at the present time. So what is the point of this relative innovation?
Dick Dale and the Deltones, Misirlou. Before Clapton, before Bloomfield, my first guitar hero. "King of the Surf Guitar." Pipeline (with Stevie Ray Vaughan). Nitro (with So Cal scenes). Let's Go Trippin', 1961. The first surf instrumental?
Are all infinite regresses (regressions?) vicious? Why the pejorative label? Of the many things I don't understand, this must be near the top of my list, and it's an ignorance that dates back to my undergrad Intro to Philosophy days. When I first read the Thomistic cosmological proofs, I found myself wondering why Aquinas had such trouble countenancing the possibility that, as the lady says, "it's turtles all the way down."
Without a first, there can't be a second... so what? It doesn't follow that there must be a first element to a series. What makes a temporally infinite series (of moments, causes/effects, etc.) impossible?
No, not all infinite regresses are vicious. Some are, if not 'virtuous,' at least innocuous or benign. The term 'benign' is standardly used. The truth regress is an example of a benign infinite regress. Let p be any true proposition. And let 'T' stand for the operator 'It is true that ( ).' Clearly, p entails T(p). For example, *Snow is white* entails *It is true that snow is white.* The operation is iterable. So T(p) entails T(T(p)). And so on, ad infinitum or ad indefinitum if you prefer. The resulting infinite series is unproblematic. Whether you call this a progression or a regression, it doesn't cause any conceptual trouble. Nor does it matter whether you think that infinity is potential only, or hold to actual infinities. Either way, the truth regress is a nice clear example of an infinite regress that is benign.
So some infinite regresses are benign.
Setting aside the lady and her turtles, suppose, contrary to current cosmology, that the universe has an infinite past, and that each phase of the universe is caused by an earlier phase. Suppose further thatthere is nothing problematic in the notion of an actual (as opposed to potential) infinity, and that there is a good answer to the question of how, given the actual infinity of the past, we ever arrived at thepresent moment. Granting all that, the infinite regress of causes is benign.
But note that one cannot explain why the universe exists by saying that it always existed. For even if there is no time at which it did not exist, there remains the question why it exists at all. The universe is contingent: it might not have existed. So even if it exists at every time with earlier phases causing later phases, that does not explain why it exists at all.
To say that the universe always existed is to say that it has no temporal beginning, no temporally first cause. But this gives no answer to the question why this temporally beginningless universe exists in the first place.
Here is where the theist invokes God. God is the ontologically, not temporally, first cause. Now if Mill asks, "But what causes God?" the answer is that God is a necessary being. If God were a contingent being, then a vicious infinite regress would arise. For one cannot get an ultimate explanation of U if one invokes a contingent G. And if there were an infinite regress of Gs, the whole series would be without ultimate explanation. Thts is true whether the regress is potentially infinite or actually infinite.
If we compare the truth regress with the regress just mentioned, we can perhaps see what makes the latter vicious. The viciousness consists in the failure to satisfy the need for an explanation. P if and only it is true that p. No one will take either side of this biconditional as explaining the other. But explanation comes in when you ask why the universe U exists. If you say that U exists because G caused it to exist, then you can reasonably ask: what caused G? The classical answer is that G is causa sui, i.e., a necessary being. The buck stops here. If, on the other hand, you say that G is contingent, then it cannot be causa sui, in which case the regress is up and running. Because the explanatory demand cannot be satisfied by embarking upon the regress, the regress is said to be vicious.
To answer the reader's question, there is perhaps nothing vicious about a temporally infinite regress of empirical causes. But that gives us no explanation of why a temporally infinite universe exists in the first place.
I pose a problem, offer without endorsing a solution, and then evaluate Paul Manata's objection to the solution.
Suppose a creaturely agent freely performs an action A. He files his tax return, say, by the April 15th deadline. Suppose that the freedom involved is not the compatibilist "freedom of the turnspit" (to borrow Kant's derisive phrase) but the robust freedom that implies both that the agent is the unsourced source of the action and that the agent could have done otherwise. The performance of A makes true a number of contingent propositions, all of them known by God in his omniscience. Now if S knows that p, and p is contingent, then S's knowing that p is an accidental (as opposed to essential) property of S. If God is omniscient, then he knows every (non-indexical) truth, including every contingent truth. It seems to follow that God has at least as many accidental properties as there are contingent truths. Surely some of these are not properties with which God could be identical, as the simplicity doctrine requires.
Consider the property of knowing that Tom freely files his tax return on April 14th, 2014. Assuming that Tom actually performs the action in question, this property is an intrinsic property contingently had by God. (A property can be intrinsic without being accidental.) If God were identical to this property, then he could not be a se. For if God were identical to the property, then God would be dependent on something -- Tom's libertarianly free action -- that is external to God and beyond his control. Now anything that compromises the divine aseity will compromise the divine simplicity, the latter being an entailment of the former. So it seems that an omniscient God cannot be simple if there are free creaturely agents.
The problem is expressible as an aporetic triad:
1. Every free agent is a libertarianly-free (L-free) agent.
2. God is ontologically simple (where simplicity is an entailment of aseity and vice versa).
3. There are contingent items of divine all-knowledge that do not (wholly) depend on divine creation, but do (partially) depend on creaturely freedom.
Each limb of the above triad has a strong, though not irresistible, claim on a classical theist's acceptance. As for (1), if God is L-free, as he must be on classical theism, then it is reasonable to maintain that every free agent is L-free. For if 'could have done otherwise' is an essential ingredient in the analysis of 'Agent A freely performs action X,' then it is highly plausible to maintain that this is so whether the agent is God or Socrates. Otherwise, 'free' will means something different in the two cases. Furthermore, if man is made in the image and likeness of God, then surely part of what this means is that man is a spiritual being who is libertarianly free just as God is. If a man is a deterministic system, then one wonders in what sense man is in the image of God.
As for (2), some reasons were given earlier for thinking that a theism that understands itself must uphold God's ontological simplicity inasmuch as it is implied by the divine aseity.
An example of (3) is Oswald's shooting of Kennedy. The act was freely performed by Oswald, and the proposition that records it is a contingent truth known by God in his omniscience.
But although each of (1)-(3) is plausibly maintained and is typically maintained by theists who uphold the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS), they cannot all be true. Therein resides the problem. Any two limbs imply the negation of the third. Thus: (1) & (3) --> ~(2); (1) & (2) --> ~(3); (2) & (3) --> ~(1).
To illustrate, let us consider how (1) and (3), taken together, entail the negation of (2). Being omniscient, God knows that Oswald freely chose to kill Kennedy. But Oswald's L-freedom precludes us from saying that God's knowledge of this contingent fact depends solely on the divine will. For it also depends on Oswald's L-free authorship of his evil deed, an authorship that God cannot prevent or override once he has created L-free agents. But this is inconsistent with the divine aseity. For to say that God is a se is to say that God is not dependent on anything distinct from himself for his existence or intrinsic properties. But God has the property of being such that he knows that Oswald freely chose to kill Kennedy, and his having this property depends on something outside of God's control, namely, Oswald's L-free choice. In this way the divine aseity is compromised, and with it the divine simplicity.
It seems, then, that our aporetic triad is an inconsistent triad. The problem it represents can be solved by denying either (1) or (2) or (3). Since (3) cannot be plausibly denied, this leaves (1) and (2). Some will deny the divine simplicity. But an upholder of the divine simplicity has the option of denying (1) and maintaining that, while God is L-free, creaturely agents are free only in a compatibilist sense. If creaturely agents are C-free, but not L-free, then Oswald could not have done otherwise, and it is possible for the upholder of divine simplicity to say that that Oswald's C-free choice is no more a threat to the divine aseity than the fact that God knows the contingent truth that creaturely agents exist. The latter is not a threat to the divine aseity because the existence of creaturely agents derives from God in a way that Oswald's L-free choice does not derive from God.
The proposal, then, is that we abandon (1) and maintain instead that only God is L-free, creatures being all of them C-free. And this despite the reasons adduced for accepting (1), reasons that are admittedly not absolutely compelling. But Paul Manata, in an e-mail, raises an objection to the proposed solution:
I was wondering what you think about this argument that such a solution might not be possible. It goes like this:
Libertarian free will = Incompatibilism + someone is free (does a free action)
Compatibilism = determinism is true in some world w, and someone is free (does a free action) in w.
Incompatibilism = there does not exist a world, w, where determinism is true in w and someone is free (does a free act) in w.
With this quick set up, we can see that compatibilism and incompatibilism contradict each other (the former is scoped by '<>' and the later scoped by '~<>').
Thus, to affirm both <>(S is free in some w and determinism is true in w) and ~<>(S is free in some w and determinism is true in w) is not possible. But that is what the solution affirms, i.e., it affirms incompatibilism by affirming that God has LFW and it affirms compatibilism by affirming we have compatibilism freedom.
This was quick and there's more to say, but that's the gist of the idea. Thoughts?
The essence of Manata's criticism is that the above proposal issues in a contradiction inasmuch as it implies that incompatibilism and compatibilism are consistent, when they are obviously inconsistent. For if God is L-free, then, given that God is a necessary being, God is L-free in every world, whence it follows (given Manata's definition of libertarian free will) that incompatibilism is true in every world. But this is inconsistent with the claim that there is a world (such as the actual world) in which compatibilism is true.
This is a worthy and thought-provoking objection but perhaps it can be side-stepped if we bear the following points in mind. God is a supernatural agent. As such, he is no part of the natural order. He is rather the transcendent creator of that order. Not being part of the natural order, he is not subject to nature's determinism if nature is deterministic. Nor is God subject to nature's indeterminism if nature is indeterministic. It follows that God's freedom is neither compatible with determinism nor incompatible with determinism. Since God is transcendent of nature, the alternative does not arise for him. Only creaturely freedom faces this alternative.
Given the foregoing, we may define LFW as follows:
An agent X is libertarianly free =df X is the agent-cause of some of its actions.
This definition is neutral as between supernatural and natural agents. Now suppose nature is deterministic and every creaturely agent is subject to this determinism. Then the only way a creature could be free would be in the compatibilist sense.
The claim that free creatures are C-free seems logically consistent with the claim that God alone is L-free.
Sid Vicious was a yob...but, you know, people change...they get older, wiser...they mature...Sid's no longer a yob; he's dead.
'Yob' is British slang, whether it is exclusively British I don't know. I first encountered the word today. Some confidently assert that it is an example of 'back slang,' it being 'boy' spelled backwards. Plausible. Spelled backwards but presumably not pronounced backwards. I'd guess it is pronounced like 'job.'
Maxim: Look up and memorize every unfamiliar word and phrase. I am regularly appalled at the miserably impoverished vocabularies of most people.
Laying about are all these free tools of thought and expression, and people are too lazy to pick them up.
George Bush, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin all die and go to hell.
While there, they spy a red phone and ask what the phone is for. The devil tells them it is for calling back to Earth. Putin asks to call Russia and talks for 5 minutes. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is a million dollars, so Putin writes him a check.
Next Queen Elizabeth calls England and talks for 30 minutes. When she is finished the devil informs her that the cost is 6 million dollars, so she writes him a check.
Finally George Bush gets his turn and talks for 4 hours. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is $5.00. When Putin hears this he goes ballistic and asks the devil why Bush got to call the USA so cheaply. The devil smiles and replies, "Since Obama took over, the country has gone to hell, so it's a local call."
Schopenhauer, Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (1813), sec. 20:
. . . causa prima ist, eben so gut wie causa sui, eine contradictio in adjecto, obschon der erstere Ausdruck viel häufiger gebraucht wird, als der letztere, und auch mit ganz ernsthafter, sogar feierlicher Miene ausgesprochen zu werden pflegt, ja Manche, insonderheit Englische Reverends, recht erbaulich die Augen verdrehn, wenn sie, mit Emphase und Rührung, the first cause, — diese contradictio in adjecto, — aussprechen. Sie wissen es: eine erste Ursache ist gerade und genau so undenkbar, wie die Stelle, wo der Raum ein Ende hat, oder der Augenblick, da die Zeit einen Anfang nahm. Denn jede Ursache ist eine Veränderung, bei der man nach der ihr vorhergegangenen Veränderung, durch die sie herbeigeführt worden, notwendig fragen muß, und so in infinitum, in infinitum!
I quote this passage in German because I do not have the English at hand, but also because the pessimist's German is very beautiful and very clear, and closer to English than any other philosophical German I have ever read.
Schopenhauer's claim is that a first cause (causa prima) is unthinkable (undenkbar) because every cause is an alteration (Veränderung) which follows upon a preceding alteration. For if every cause is an alteration that follows upon a preceding alteration, then the series of causes is infinite in the past direction, and there is no temporally first cause.
And so 'first cause' is a contradictio in adiecto: the adjective 'first' contradicts the noun 'cause.' Charitably interpreted, however, Schopenhauer is not making a semantic point about word meanings. What he really wants to say is that the essence of causation is such as to disallow both a temporally first cause and a logically/metaphysically first cause. There cannot be a temporally first cause because every cause is an alteration that follows upon a preceding alteration. And there cannot be a logically/metaphysically first cause for the same reason: if every cause and effect is an alteration in a substance then no substance can be a cause or an effect. Causation is always and everywhere the causation of alterations in existing things by alterations in other existing things; it is never the causation of the existing of things. For Schopenhauer, as I read him, the ultimate substrates of alterational change lie one and all outside the causal nexus. If so, there cannot be a causal explanation of the sheer existence of the world.
Here I impute to Schopenhauer the following argument:
1. The relata of the causal relation are changes. 2. Every change is an alteration. 3. Every alteration presupposes a substrate of alteration that does not change in respect of its existence and identity. 4. Some, but not all, substrates of alteration are non-ultimate, where a non-ultimate substrate is one whose coming into existence or passing out of existence is reducible to the alteration of an already existing substrate or substrates; hence there must be ultimate substrates of alteration. 5. If there are ultimate substrates of alteration, then they do not come into existence or pass away. 6. Because changes occur, there are ultimate substrates of alteration. 7. There are ultimate substrates of change that do not come into existence or pass away, and are thus sempiternal. (5, 6) 8. The existence of these sempiternal substrata are at the basis of all causation. Therefore 9. The existence of the ultimate substrata of change cannot have a cause, divine or otherwise. Therefore 10. Cosmological arguments, presupposing as they do that causation of existence makes sense, are one and all unsound.
What can we say in critique of this argument? (2) may be questioned. If every change is an alteration, then nothing can come into existence except by the alteration of some thing or things already in existence. That implies that there cannot be creation ex nihilo. But then Schopenhauer's argument may be said to beg the question against the theist at line (2) -- unless there is some independent way of supporting (2).
But is creation ex nihilo a change? In what? It cannot be a change in some stuff out of which God creates. For then the creation would not be ex nihilo. God is not a demiurge. Nor can it be a real change in God if God is unchanging. One might just say that the creation out of nothing of contingent beings is a change in the way things are. But this is tricky because this change would appear to have to be an atemporal change. There could be time without change, but how could there be change without time?
Consider the possible worlds in which no contingent beings exist and compare them with C, a world in which contingent beings exist. Suppose God causes C to be actual. Suppose further that C -- like all worlds -- is a maximal Fregean proposition or a maximal Chisholmian state of affairs. Now we have a substrate of exnihilation, namely, the the maximal proposition or state of affairs C. It is not that C is created, but that C is made actual. But it is not as if C 'goes' from being unactual to being actual. 'Going' is a transition, and transition takes time, and indeed time as involving temporal becoming. Given that time is contingent, there is no time at which there are no contingent beings and a later time at which there are. Divine creation is presumably not in time, but of time and of everything else that is contingent.
Well, perhaps we could introduce a notion of modal change which would be analogous to temporal change as the latter is construed by B-theorists:
Reality changes just in case it has different properties in different possible worlds.
Reality changes from not containing contingent beings to containing them iff there are possible worlds in which there are, and possible worlds in which there are not, contingent beings.
If every change requires a cause, then presumably the change just mentioned requires a divine cause.
To review the dialectic: if creatures are effects of a cause, and effects are changes, and every change requires a substrate, then what is the subject or substrate of exhihilation? What is creatio ex nihilo a change in? My very tentative suggestion is that it is a change in reality in accordance with the definitions just given.
Since the cause of this change cannot itself be a change, (1) must be rejected as well.
I just now happened to click on one of Keith Burgess-Jackson's many Ten Years Ago in This Blog links, having no idea what was on the other end of it, when I pulled up the following:
In your post of 3/31/04 1:22:05 PM, you classify chess as an intellectual contest rather than as a sport, which is a physical contest. You seem to be saying that chess (and checkers) are intellectual contests with no physical, hence no sport, dimension. If this is what you are saying, then I disagree.
Tournament chess, which, like all serious chess, is played with clocks, is extremely demanding physically as well as mentally. Suppose the primary time control is 40 moves in 2 hours, the secondary control is 20 moves in 1 hour, and the tertiary control is 1 hour sudden death. Such a contest could last 8 hours with no adjournment! But even if a game lasts 3-4 hours, the physical demands become considerable. To play well, one must be physically fit and keep oneself supplied with nutrients during the game. Physical training is an essential part of the training regimen for the top players.
So I would say that chess counts as a sport. The Dutch employ the term, Denksport. Besides the sport aspect, it is easily arguable that chess has aspects of an art and a science.
There can be no doubt about it: Chess is the game of kings, and the king of games!
Blind review is a standard practice employed by editors of professional journals and organizers of academic conferences. The editor/organizer removes the name of the author from the manuscript before sending it to the referee or referees for evaluation. My present concern is not whether this is a good practice. I am concerned with the phrase that describes it and whether or not this phrase can be reasonably found offensive by anyone. There are those who think that the phrase is offensive and ought to be banned. Shelley Tremain writes,
For the last few years, I have tried to get the APA [American Philosophical Association] to remove the phrase “blind review” from its publications and website. The phrase is demeaning to disabled people because it associates blindness with lack of knowledge and implies that blind people cannot be knowers. Because the phrase is standardly used in philosophy and other academic CFPs [Calls for Papers], it should become recognized as a cause for great concern. In short, use of the phrase amounts to the circulation of language that discriminates. Philosophers should want to avoid inflicting harm in this way.
Let's consider these claims seriatim.
1. "The phrase is demeaning to disabled people . . . " Well, I am a disabled person and the phrase is not demeaning to me. As a result of a birth defect I hear in only one ear. And of course there are innumerable people who are disabled in different ways who will not find the phrase demeaning.
2. " . . . because it associates blindness with lack of knowledge and implies that blind people cannot be knowers." This is not just false but silly. No one thinks that blind people cannot be knowers or that knowers cannot be blind.
Besides, it makes no sense to say that a phrase associates anything with anything. A foolish person who is precisely not thinking, but associating, might associate blindness with ignorance, but so what? People associate the damndest things.
To point out the obvious: if the name has been removed from the mansucript, then the referee literally cannot see it. This is not to say that the referee is blind, or blind with respect to the author's name: he could see it if it were there to see. 'Blind review' means that the reviewer is kept in the dark as to the identity of the author. That's all!
3. ". . . it should become recognized as a cause for great concern." Great concern? This is a wild exaggeration even if this issue is of some minor concern. I say, however, that it is of no concern. No one is demeaned or slighted or insulted or mocked or ridiculed by the use of the phrase in question.
4. ". . . use of the phrase amounts to the circulation of language that discriminates." One could argue that the practice of blind review discriminates against those who have made a name for themselves. But that is the only discrimination in the vicinity. I said at the top that this post is no joke. What is risible, however, is that anyone would find 'blind review' to be discriminatory against blind people.
5. "Philosophers should want to avoid inflicting harm in this way." This presupposes that the use of the phrase 'blind review' inflicts harm. This is just silly. It would be like arguing that the use of 'black hole' inflicts harm on black people because its use associates blacks with holes or with hos (whores).
In the early-to-mid '80s I attended an APA session organized by a group that called itself PANDORA: Philosophers Against the Nuclear Destruction of Rational Animals. One of the weighty topics that came up at this particular meeting was the very name 'Pandora.' Some argued that the name is sexist on the ground that it might remind someone of Pandora's Box, which of course has nothing to do with the characteristic female orifice, but in so reminding them might be taken as a slighting of that orifice. ('Box' is crude slang for the orifice in question.) I pointed out in the meeting that the name is just an acronym, and has nothing to do either with Pandora's Box or the characteristic female orifice. My comment made no impression on the politically correct there assembled. Later the outfit renamed itself Concerned Philosophers for Peace ". . . because of sexist and exclusionary aspects of the acronym." (See here)
This shot of the old philosopher by the fire with his shootin' ahrn nicely complements some of the combative things he says in the Zan Boag interview at NewPhilosopher. (HT: Karl White.) For example, "I don’t read much philosophy, it upsets me when I read the nonsense written by my contemporaries, the theory of extended mind makes me want to throw up…so mostly I read works of fiction and history."
The surly (Searle-y?) reference is to externalist theories of mind such as Ted Honderich's and Clark and Chalmers' The Extended Mind.
I found this exchange interesting:
You say that consciousness is a real subjective experience, caused by the physical processes of the brain, and that where consciousness is concerned, the appearance is reality. Can you elaborate on this?
John Searle: Consciousness exists only insofar as it is experienced by a human or animal subject. OK, now grant me that consciousness is a genuine biological phenomenon. Well, all the same it’s somewhat different from other biological phenomena because it only exists insofar as it is experienced. However, that does give it an interesting status. You can’t refute the existence of consciousness by showing that it’s just an illusion because the illusion/ reality distinction rests on the difference between how things consciously seem to us and how they really are. But where the very existence of consciousness is concerned, if it consciously seems to me that I’m conscious, then I am conscious. You can’t make the illusion/reality distinction for the very existence of consciousness the way you can for sunsets and rainbows because the distinction is between how things consciously seem and how they really are.
You also say that consciousness is a physical property, like digestion or fire.
John Searle: Consciousness is a biological property like digestion or photosynthesis. Now why isn’t that screamingly obvious to anybody who’s had any education? And I think the answer is these twin traditions. On the one hand there’s God, the soul and immortality that says it’s really not part of the physical world, and then there is the almost as bad tradition of scientific materialism that says it’s not a part of the physical world. They both make the same mistake, they refuse to take consciousness on its own terms as a biological phenomenon like digestion, or photosynthesis, or mitosis, or miosis, or any other biological phenomenon.
Part of what Searle says in his first response is importantly correct. Since the distinction between illusion and reality presupposes the reality of consciousness, it makes no sense to suppose that consciousness might be an illusion, let alone assert such a monstrous thesis. It amazes me that there are people who are not persuaded by such luminous and straightforward reasoning. But pace Searle it does not follow that consciousness is a biological phenomenon. If biological phenomena are those phenomena that are in principle exhaustively intelligible in terms of the science of biology, then I don't see how consciousness could be biological even if it is found only in biologically alive beings. Can the what-it-is-like feature be accounted for in purely biological terms? (That's a rhetorical question.) And that's just for starters.
In the second response, Searle claims that consciousness is a biological property and that this ought to be "screamingly obvious" to anyone with "any education." Come on, John! Do you really want to suggest that the philosophical problem of consciousness as this is rigorously formulated by people like Colin McGinn is easily solved just be getting one's empirical facts straight? Do you really mean to imply that people who do not agree with your philosophy of mind are ignorant of plain biological facts? If consciousness were a biological phenomenon just like digestion or photosynthesis or mitosis or meiosis, then consciousness would be as unproblematic as the foregoing. It isn't.
Why is it that there is a philosophical problem of consciousness, but no philosophical problem of digestion? Note the obvious difference between the following two questions. Q1: How is consciousness possible given that it really exists, arises in the brain, but is inexplicable in terms of what we know and can expect to know about animal and human brains? Q2: How is digestion possible given that it really exists, takes place in the stomach and its 'peripherals,' but is inexplicable in terms of what we know and can know about animal and human gastrointestinal systems?
Obviously, there is a philosophical problem about consciousness but no philosophical problem about digestion. And note that even if some philosopher argues that there is no genuine philosophical problem about consciousness, because one has, say, been bewitched by language, or has fallen afoul of some such draconian principle as the Verifiability Criterion of Cognitive Meaningfulness, no philosopher would dream of arguing that there is no genuine philosophical problem of digestion. It needs no arguing. For whether or not there is a genuine problem about consciousness, there is a putative problem about it. But there is not even a putative philosophical problem about digestion. The only problems concerning digestion are those that can be solved by taking an antacid or by consulting a gastroenterologist or by doing more empirical gut science.
This is why it is at least possible with a modicum of sense to argue that the philosophy of mind collapses into the neuroscience of the brain, but impossible sensibly to argue that the the philosophy of digestion collapses into gastroenterology or that the philosophy of blood filtering and detoxification collapses into hepatology. There is no philosophy of digestion or philosophy of blood filtering and detoxification.
It is obviously not obvious that consciousness is a biological phenomenon. Searle is brilliant when it comes to exposing the faults of other theories of mind, but he is oblivious to the problems with his own. Searle 'knows' in his gut that naturalism just has to be true, which is why he cannot for a second take seriously any suggestion that consciousness might have a higher origin. But he ought to admit that his comparison of consciousness to digestion and photosynthesis and mitosis and meiosis is completely bogus. He can still be a naturalist, however, either by pinning his hopes on some presently incoceivable future science or by going mysterian in the manner of McGinn.
I missed Saturday Night at the Oldies because I was in La Mirada, California, for a conference at Biola University. Ed Feser gave the keynote address and I was the commentator. More about the proceedings later, perhaps. But for now a quick make-up:
An appropriate selection given the seismic events of Friday and Saturday in LaLaLand. On Friday evening I was quietly and comfortably ensconced in an easy chair in the guest suite of the Biola Philosophy House reading the Bible and Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics back and forth, when I felt the chair shift. I was puzzled for a second until I realized that I was in Southern Calfornia, earthquake country. I thought: no big deal. As a native Californian, this was nothing new to my experience. (I remember in particular the early morning San Fernando/Sylmar quake of February '71.)
Later that night, in bed, it was a bigger deal: the bed began moving back and forth. I reflected that the Philosophy House was single-story and that egress was quick and easy should that be necessary. So I went back to sleep.
The third tremor I recall was near the end of the conference, and the fourth, rather more serious, occurred on Saturday night while David Limbaugh, Adam Omelianchuk, Ed Feser and I were enjoying a nice quiet conversation over beer in the Philosophy House.
It is good to be back on (relative) terra firma, here in Arizona, where earthquakes are infrequent and mild. I've been out here 23 years and I don't recall experiencing even one.
Experts say a bigger earthquake along the lesser-known fault that gave Southern California a moderate shake could do more damage to the region than the long-dreaded "Big One" from the more famous San Andreas Fault.
The Puente Hills thrust fault, which brought Friday night's magnitude-5.1 quake centered in La Habra and well over 100 aftershocks by Sunday, stretches from northern Orange County under downtown Los Angeles into Hollywood — a heavily populated swath of the Los Angeles area.
A magnitude-7.5 earthquake along that fault could prove more catastrophic than one along the San Andreas, which runs along the outskirts of metropolitan Southern California, seismologists said.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that such a quake along the Puente Hills fault could kill 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage. In contrast, a larger magnitude 8 quake along the San Andreas would cause an estimated 1,800 deaths. [. . .]
J. P. Moreland is against it. Me too. More generally, I oppose any amalgamation of classical theism and materialism about the mind. (See my "Could a Classical Theist be a Physicalist?" Faith and Philosophy, vol. 15, no. 2, April 1998, pp. 160-180.) Here are some excerpts from Moreland's piece:
Christianity is a dualist, interactionist religion in this sense: God, angels/demons, and the souls of men and beasts are immaterial substances that can causally interact with the world. Specifically, human persons are (or have) souls that are spiritual substances that ground personal identity in a disembodied intermediate state between death and final resurrection . . . .
[. . .]
In my view, Christian physicalism involves a politically correct revision of the biblical text that fails to be convincing . . . .
[. . .]
The irrelevance of neuroscience also becomes evident when we consider the recent best seller Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander. Regardless of one’s view of the credibility of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) in general, or of Alexander’s in particular, one thing is clear. Before whatever it was that happened to him (and I believe his NDE was real but no not agree with his interpretation of some of what happened to him), Alexander believed the (allegedly) standard neuroscientific view that specific regions of the brain generate and possess specific states of conscious. But after his NDE, Alexander came to believe that it is the soul that possesses consciousness, not the brain, and the various mental states of the soul are in two-way causal interaction with specific regions of the brain. Here’s the point: His change in viewpoint was a change in metaphysics that did not require him to reject or alter a single neuroscientific fact. Dualism and physicalism are empirically equivalent views consistent with all and only the same scientific data. Thus, the authority of science cannot be appropriated to provide any grounds whatsoever for favoring one view over another.
I'm with J.P on the irrelevance of neuroscience to the philosophy of mind, and vice versa, but with three minor exceptions that I explain in the third article cited below.
Hate speech? That's a term leftists use for speech they don't like. No one in his right mind could see Heidegger's magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), published in 1927, as anything close to hate speech. The claim that it is is beneath refutation. Nor can his lectures and publications after 1933, when Hitler came to power, be dismissed in this way.
Heidegger undoubtedly inspires violent passions: he was a National Socialist, and what is worse, he never admitted he was wrong about his political alignment. But according to Michael Dummett, the great logician Gottlob Frege was an anti-Semite. (Dummett says this in either the preface or the introduction to Frege: The Philosophy of Language. ) Now will you ignore Frege's seminal teachings because of his alleged anti-Semitism? That would be senseless. And let's not forget that the later Jean-Paul Sartre was not just a Commie, but a Stalinist. Should Critique of Dialectical Reason be dismissed as hate speech? Should we deny Sartre the title 'philosopher' and re-classify him as a Commie ideologue? Of course not. And please no double standard. Why is being a Nazi worse than being a Stalinist? Why is murdering people because of their ethnic affiliation worse than murdering people because of their class affiliation?
You have two highly influential philosophers. One aligns himself politically with the mass murderer Hitler, the other with the mass murderer Stalin. That is extremely interesting, and no doubt troubling, but in the end it is truth that we philosophers are after, and in pursuit of it we should leave no stone unturned: we should examine all ideas in order to arrive as closely as we can to the truth. All ideas, no matter what they are, whether they come from a Black Forest ski hut or a Parisian coffee house, or the syphilitic brain of a lonely German philologist. Haul them one and all before the tribunal of Reason and question them in the full light of day. To understand the content of the ideas it may be necessary to examine the men and women behind them. But once a philosopher's propositions have been clearly set forth, the question of their truth or falsity is logically independent of their psychological, or sociological, or other, origin. To think otherwise is to commit the Genetic Fallacy.
Sartre claimed that man has no nature, that "existence precedes essence." He got the idea from Heidegger's Sein und Zeit, p. 42: Das 'Wesen' des Daseins liegt in seiner Existenz. It is an interesting and influential idea. What exactly does it mean? What does it entail? What does it exclude? What considerations can be adduced in support of it? Questions like these are what a real philosopher pursues. He doesn't waste all his time poking into the all-too-human philosopher's dirty laundry in the manner of Faye and Romano. Are people in this Age of Celebrity incapable of focusing on ideas?
And then there is Nietzsche. If the Gesamtausgabe of Heidegger ought to be marked with a skull-and-crossbones, then a fortiori for the Gesammelte Schriften of Nietzsche. There are dangerous ideas in Nietzsche. See my post Nietzsche and National Socialism. Indeed, Nietzsche's ideas are far more dangerous than Heidegger's. Should we burn Nietzsche's books and brand The Antichrist as hate speech? Stupid!
The Nazis burned books and the Roman Catholic Church had an index librorum prohibitorum. Now I don't deny that certain impressionable people need to be protected from certain odious influences. But Heidegger writings are no more 'hate speech' (whatever that is) than Nietzsche's writings are, and they don't belong on any latter-day leftist's index librorum prohibitorum. Are they both philosophers? Of course. Are they on a par with Plato and Kant? Not by a long shot! Are their ideas worth discussing? I should think so: they go wrong in interesting ways. Just like Wittgenstein and many others.
For social and political diary entries from Frege near the end of his life, see here. (HT: Marius Manci) Very interesting.
Some changes are merely accidental or alterational. Others are substantial or existential. It is one thing for Tom to gain or lose weight, quite another for him to come to be or pass away. Alterational changes including gaining weight, shifting position, and becoming depressed. Such changes are changes in a thing that already exists and remains self-same through the change. Call that thing the substratum of the change. It does not change; what changes are its properties. In a slogan: no alterational change without unchange.
But coming-to-exist and ceasing-to-exist also count as changes. Call them existential changes. This prima facie distinction at the Moorean or datanic level between alterational and existential change leaves open three theoretical options: (a) reduce existential change to alterational change; (b) reduce alterational change to existential change; (c) maintain that they are mutually irreducible. (C) is the least theoretical of the three and the closest to the data; let's see if we can uphold it.
Now it seems obvious that existential change cannot be understood in terms of alteration of the very thing that undergoes it: before a thing exists it is simply not available to suffer any alteration, and likewise when it ceases to exist. Coming-to-be is not gain of a property, but gain of a thing together with all its properties; ceasing-to-be is not loss of a property, but loss of a thing together with all its properties. But it also seems obvious that existential change cannot be understood in terms of the alteration of anything distinct from the thing that undergoes it. Thus I don't think that the following tensed definitions of Roderick Chisholm shed any real light on coming-to-be and passing away ("Coming into Being and Passing Away" in On Metaphysics, U. of Minnesota Press, 1989, p. 56):
D1 x comes into being =df There is a property which is such that x has it and there is no property which is such that x had it
D2 x has just passed away =df Something that was such that x exists begins to be such that x does not exist.
Consider the second definition first. If Zeno the cat has just passed away, then the property of being triangular, my house, and me all begin to be such that Zeno does not exist. And conversely. No doubt. But surely the real change which is the ceasing to exist of a cat cannot be understood in terms of mere Cambridge alterations in Platonica or in concreta distinct from the cat. The right-hand side of (D2) cannot figure in a metaphysical explanation of the left-hand side. It is the other way around. The real change in the cat when it ceases to exist is the metaphysical ground of the Cambridge alterational change in the house. Now suppose a cat comes into being. Then of course there is some property that it has, and every property was such that the cat in question did not have it. But again, the real change that occurs when a cat comes into existence cannot be understood in terms of Cambridge alterations of properties.
So Chisholm's definitions, though true, shed no light on the metaphysics of coming-to-be and passing-away. Real existential change cannot be understood in terms of Cambridge changes.
But if Zeno's coming to be cannot be understood in terms of (D1), why can't we say that his coming to be is just the alteration of the gametes whence he sprang? Creation (exnihilation) aside, coming to be is coming to be from something that already exists. So why not say that when a substance comes to exist it comes to exist by the alteration of an already existing substance or substances?
Consider the house of the Wise Pig. It is made entirely of bricks. It came to be from those bricks. Assume that each brick is an Aristotelian primary substance. Did a new Aristotelian substance come into existence when the assiduous pig changed a pile of bricks into a house proof against the depredations of the Big Bad Wolf? Or did nothing new come into existence? It would be reasonable to hold to the latter view and maintain that all that happened was that an alterational change occurred to the bricks. Similarly when the house is disassembles. Nothing passes out of existence. You have what you started with, a loa of bricks.
It is different with cats and people. For example, when a person dies, its body is altered in various ways; but if the person ceases to exist at death, its ceasing to exist is not identical to the person's body being altered in these ways. A rational substance ceases to exist. And the same holds when a person comes into existence either at conception or some time thereafter. This coming into being cannot be identified with the alteration of such already existent material particulars as the mother's uterus and its contents. A rational substance comes to exist. Generation and corruption, to use the not entirely felicitous Aristotelian language, are at least in some cases irreducibly existential changes. Whether or not the coming to be of the Wise Pig's brick house is an addition to being, a person's coming to be is. (On the Boethian definition invoked by scholastics, a person is a primary substance of a rational nature.)
If a person's coming to be is a change, it is an existential change. It is not an alterational change in an existing substance or in existing substances. Nor do persons spring into existence ex nihilo. Persons develop from nonpersons and in such away that the nonpersons cease to exist and the person begins to exist. But if all change requires a substratum of change that remains self-same through the change, a substratum that provides continuity and ensures that the change is a change and not a replacement, what the devil is the substratum in the case of coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be? The Aristotelian-scholastic answer is prime matter. Prime matter, however, though its postulation is well-motivated by a couple or three different lines of argumentation is arguably unintelligible. Prime matter is a wholly indeterminate and wholly formless really existent stuff of which all material substances are composed. It belongs wth G. Bergmann's bare particulars and Kant's Ding an sich in point of unintelligibility or so I would argue.
It is twilight time for a great nation. One indication is the rise of political lawlessness.*
Should this trouble the philosopher? Before he is a citizen, the philosopher is a "spectator of all time and existence" in a marvellous phrase that comes down to us from Plato's Republic (486a). The rise and fall of great nations is just more grist for the philosopher's mill. His true homeland is nothing so paltry as a particular nation, even one as exceptional as the USA, and his fate as a truth-seeker cannot be tied to its fate. Like the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly Athens is not bound to a geographical location.
National decline is not just grist for the philosopher's mill, however, it is also perhaps a condition of understanding as Hegel suggests in the penultimate paragraph of the preface to The Philosophy of Right:
When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy's grey on grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the falling of the dusk.
Daughter of Jupiter, Minerva in the mythology of the Greeks is the goddess of wisdom. And the nocturnal owl is one of its ancient symbols. The meaning of the Hegelian trope is that understanding, insight, and wisdom arise when the object to be understood has played itself out, when it has actualized and thus exhausted its potentialities, and now faces only decline.
When a shape of life has grown old, philosophy paints its grey on grey. The allusion is to Goethe's Faust wherein Mephisto says
Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.
Grey, dear friend, is all theory And green the golden tree of life.
Philosophy is grey, a "bloodless ballet of categories" (F. H. Bradley) and its object is grey -- no longer green and full of life. And so philosophy paints its grey concepts on the grey object, in this case America on the wane. The object must be either dead or moribund before it can be fully understood. Hegel in his famous saying re-animates and gives a new meaning to the Platonic "To philosophize is to learn how to die."
In these waning days of a great republic, the owl of Minerva takes flight. What we lose in vitality we gain in wisdom.
The consolations of philosophy are many.
But as citizens we fight on. For the wise philosopher knows that he can live his vocation only in certain political conditions.
Over at the The Philosopher's Stone, Robert Paul Wolff waxes enthusiastic over a quotation from Hobbes:
"Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind, or imagined from tales publicly allowed, RELIGION; not allowed, SUPERSTITION."
Just think what Hobbes accomplishes in these eighteen words! The only distinction between religion and superstition is whether the tales that provoke our fear of things invisible are allowed or not allowed. It is the law, the will of the sovereign, that constitutes the difference betwixt the two. I think that single sentence may be the most powerful argument against religion faith ever written.
There, now I can face another evening of bloviating pundits.
I grant that the Hobbes quotation is a stylistically dazzling English sentence. But I find no non-question-begging argument in it, just a series of assertions:
1. The object of religious belief is an invisible power. 2. This object evokes fear. 3. The fear-evoking object of religion is imaginary, hence nonexistent. 4. Religious and superstitious belief have the same object. 5. There is no intrinsic difference between religion and supersition; the only difference is a relational one. Belief in an imaginary, fear-evoking invisible power is religion if the sovereign allows it. Otherwise it is superstition.
If this is the best the anti-religionists can do, they are in sad shape.
Meanwhile over at Oxford University, Vince Vitale maintains that God or rather God-belief is not dead. Watch the video. My old atheist friend Quentin Smith is quoted. (Note that 'old friend' does not imply that the friend is old; but Quentin is.)
According to William Ernest Hocking, to philosophize is to assume that the universe has an objective meaning, one that can be discerned by us. "And since meanings are something more than the bare facts of the natural order, all philosophy is, in its assumptions, contradictory to naturalism, taking naturalism strictly as the negative doctrine that Nature is all there is." (Types of Philosophy, 1929, p. 437)
Ah, the endless and enduring pleasures of a well-stocked library! Of books. Let an EMP, natural or anthropogenic, , bring down the grid. I'm ready.
California’s Democrats have long chafed against Proposition 209, a 1996 voter-backed measure that said: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, colour, ethnicity, or national origin” in public employment or education. In January SCA 5, a Democratic bill which, if approved by voters, would have exempted universities from this rule (and thus allowed them to bring back affirmative action), whizzed through the state Senate. It seemed likely to pass in the lower house, too.
But SCA 5 was defeated in the lower house. That's good news and a victory for justice, which is not to be confused with 'social justice.' Only the morally obtuse could object to Prop. 209.
Unfortunately the morally obtuse have infiltrated deep into our institutions:
"The university has been hurt” by Prop 209, says Gene Block, UCLA’s chancellor. Like other university administrators, he says that diversity creates a better atmosphere for learning.
That is just politically correct nonsense. But I am not in the mood to explain why one more time.
See here for links to posts critical of the Left's diversity fetish.
Bob Dylan, High Water. This is a late-career Dylan gem from Love and Theft (2001). A tribute to Charley Patton. Demonstrates Dylan's mastery of the arcana of Americana. Our greatest and deepest singer-songwriter. Here is some fairly good analysis by Kees de Graaf:
“I got a cravin’ love for blazing speed, got a hopped-up Mustang Ford, jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties overboard. I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind, I’m no pig without a wig, I hope you treat me kind, things are breakin’ up out there, high water everywhere”. When the world is under threat of being wiped out, one may expect that man will repent. But that is usually not the case. On the contrary, in the Apocalypse, the low natural tendencies of man seem to thrive like never before. The saying “let’s eat and drink and be merry, because tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32) rings true. This is expressed in various ways in the song. First in “a cravin’ love for blazing speed”; the word ‘craving’ indicates that this love for blazing speed has something of a compulsion neurosis. The words “A hopped up Mustang Ford” in combination with “craving love” and “blazing speed” is a brilliant pun. A Mustang Ford is said to be a “speedy car, but “speed” is also a drug for which you may be “craving”. So you may be “craving” for the drug “speed”, but you may also have a craving love for blazing “speed”” – that is for driving very fast. The reason why the Mustang Ford is called “hopped up” is because it is a very “speed-y”, fast car. By the way, speed (methamphetamine) is a dangerous and unpredictable drug, sometimes lethal, representing the fastest growing drug abuse threat in America today. Speed is a potent and addictive central nervous system stimulant, closely related chemically to amphetamine, but with greater central nervous system effects. “Hopped up” means ‘high’ or ‘stoned’, the word is derived from “hop", a nickname for heroin and/or opium, but it can refer to the effects of any drug. . . .
My favorite verse:
Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew You can't open up your mind, boys, to every conceivable point of view They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway 5 Judge says to the High Sheriff, "I want them dead or alive" Either one, I don't care, high water everywhere.
Nosiree, Bob, you can't open up your mind to every conceivable point of view, especially when its not dark yet, but it's getting there.
Karla Bonoff, The Water is Wide. I listened to a lot of Bonoff in the early '80s. She does a great job with this traditional song.
Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, Banks of the Ohio. Joan Baez's version from an obscure 1959 album, Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square.
Similar theme though not water-related: Doc Watson, Tom Dooley. Doc and family in a BBC clip.
Standells, Dirty Water. Boston and the River Charles. My mecca in the '70s, the Athens of America, the Hub of the Universe, etc. A great town to be young in. But when it comes time to own property and pay taxes, then a right-thinking man high tails it for the West.
Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water. A beautiful song. May it provide some solace for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Henry Mancini, Moon River. This was Jack Kerouac's favorite song. Ellis Amburn, Subterranean Kerouac (St. Martin's 1998), p. 324:
One night he [Kerouac, during a 1962 visit to Lowell, Mass.] left a bar called Chuck's with Huck Finneral, a reedy, behatted eccentric who carried a business card that read: "Professional killer . . . virgins fixed . . . orgies organized, dinosaurs neutered, contracts & leases broken." Huck's philosophy of life was: "Better a wise madness than a foolish sanity." They drove to a friend's house in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and on the way, Jack sang "Moon River," calling it his favorite song. Composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, "Moon River" was the theme song of the popular Audrey Hepburn movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Sobbed by a harmonica, later swelling with strings and chorus, the plaintive tune's gentle but epic-like lyrics describe a dreamer and roamer not unlike Kerouac.
Indeed they do. A restless dreamer, a lonesome traveller, a dharma seeker, a desolation angel passing through this vale of mist, a drifter on the river of samsara hoping one day to cross to the Far Shore. Here is another version of the tune with some beautiful images.
Doc Watson, Moody River. A moodier version than the Pat Boone hit. Clever YouTube comment: "It might be a little early in the day for an Am7." But this here's Saturday night and I'm working on my second wine spodiodi. Chords minor and melancholy go good 'long about now.
When liberals are up to their usual scumbaggery ought one take the high road with them, patiently making one's case in gentlemanly fashion and rebutting theirs, assuming there is one, all the while ignoring their insults and slanders? In The Liberal Slandering of Paul Ryan Peter Wehner takes seriously and replies earnestly to the mouthings of the race-baiter Paul Krugman and others. But slanderous scum like Krugman are beneath serious reply and it is arguable that replying in measured tones only gives them a credibility they don't deserve.
Once you grasp that it is a war, and that liberals will say anything no matter how absurd, then you will appreciate that mockery and derision are much more effective means of opposing them. But you must also provide solid arguments for the fence-sitters. In Six Arguments Only a Liberal Believe, John Hawkins supplies just the right admixture of mockery and derision to his substantive point-making.
I'm all for civility, but civility is for the civil only.
We must learn to accept people's love, good wishes, and benevolence as gifts without worrying whether we deserve these things or not, and without worrying whether we will ever be in a position to compensate the donors. Similarly, we must learn to accept people's hate and malevolence as a sort of reverse gratuitous donation whether we deserve them or not.
We are often unjustly loved and admired. So why should it bother us that we are often unjustly hated and contemned? Try to see the latter as balancing the former.
A U. K. reader made mention in an e-mail of a feminist philosopher with a high H index.
"What is this? It's a measure of citation apparently. Is that good? Or is it a bunch of useless people citing each other -- a sort of walled garden? Interested in your thoughts."
To tell the truth, it wasn't until this afternoon that I had even heard of it. A metric like this is the kind of thing that excites status-obsessed careerists and gatekeepers like Ladder Man, a. k. a. Brian Leiter, who is so-called because of his obsession with rankings and ratings. Can you imagine a real philosopher such as Spinoza caring about these trappings of professionalism gone wild?
Here is the way I understand it. Let N be the total number of a scientist's or scholar's publications. A scientist or scholar has index h if h of his N publications have at least h citations each, and the other (N − h) publications have no more than h citations each. (See here.)
To illustrate, I will use myself as an example and attempt to calculate my h value based on the data provided by Google Scholar here.
#9 (International Philosophical Quarterly) 8 citations #10 (History of Philosophy Quarterly) 7 citations
and so on, with all the rest of my 50 or so publications having no more than 8 citations each.
The value of h for me is 8 because 8 of my publications have at least 8 citations each and the rest have no more than 8 citations each. If I had published only #1, then h would be 1. If I had published only the first two, then my h would be 2 because each has at least two citations. If I had published only the first three, then my h would be 3 because each of the three has been cited at least three times. And so on. If I had published only the first eight, then my h would still be 8.
So does this make me a better philosopher than Edmund Gettier? He published exactly one very short philosophical paper. H for him is 1. Am I eight times better than him? And what does 'better' mean? More influential? Then he is better than me. But influential on whom? Is 'influential' a descriptive or a descriptive-cum-normative predicate? Gettier cooked up a counterexample to the justified-true-belief analysis of propositional knowledge. How important is that whole debate? Nietzsche and Ayn Rand are highly influential. Is that good or bad?
Socrates is supposed not to have published anything. His h = 0. Socrates Jones over at Whatsammatta U. is his latter-day acolyte. So far he has published nothing and may never publish anything. But he is an inspiring teacher and as keen a dialectician as the master himself with many of the same moral attributes.
But poor Socrates Jones was denied tenure despite his philosophical gifts because the lunkheads who evaluated him, lacking phronesis and obsessed with the calculable, and needing to justify themselves to know-nothing administrators, were obsessed with a dubious and well-nigh meaningless metric.
What follows is an excerpt from section 24 of the William Wallace translation of what is sometimes referred to as Hegel's "Lesser Logic," being Part One of The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Oxford UP first ed. 1873, 2nd 1892, 3rd 1975:
We all know the theological dogma that man’s nature is evil, tainted with what is called Original Sin. Now while we accept the dogma, we must give up the setting of incident which represents original sin as consequent upon an accidental act of the first man. For the very notion of spirit is enough to show that man is evil by nature, and it is an error to imagine that he could ever be otherwise. To such extent as man is and acts like a creature of nature, his whole behaviour is what it ought not to be. For the spirit it is a duty to be free, and to realise itself by its own act. Nature is for man only the starting point which he has to transform. The theological doctrine of original sin is a profound truth; but modern enlightenment prefers to believe that man is naturally good, and that he acts right so long as he continues true to nature.
I reject the progressivism whereby man can realize himself by his own act, but I like the poke at Rousseau at the end.
As a 'Zone Man,' I am well aware of the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke especially when out for an infernal hike. Although a U.S. gallon of water weighs 8 1/3 lbs, those are pounds I don't leave home without. Some will be surprised to learn that even with water there can be too much of a good thing.
The danger is increased if you drink pure water. Since my reverse osmosis water purifier delivers water that is around 95% pure, I add electrolyte replacements such as Gookinaid to my water or else bring along salty snacks.
In fact, the sort of greasy, salty, sugary crud that you shouldn't eat at home makes for good trail food.
To promote independent thought about ultimates. Philosophy, commentary on the passing scene, and whatever else fuels my fire or rouses my ire. Pages wherein one man pursues his education and works out his intellectual salvation in public. Since 4 May 2004. By William F. Vallicella, Ph.D., Gold Canyon, Arizona, USA. Motto: "Study everything, join nothing." (Paul Brunton) Latin Motto: Omnia mea mecum porto. Turkish motto: Yol bilen kervana katilmaz. (He who knows the road does not join the caravan.) All material copyrighted.
A worthwhile NYT piece and a good counter to Susan Jacoby's Never Say Die which I criticize in one of my better posts, appropriately entitled Never Say Die. An excerpt from the former:
An impediment to wisdom is thinking, “I can’t stand who I am now because I’m not who I used to be,” said Isabella S. Bick, a psychotherapist who, at 81, still practices part time out of her home in Sharon, Conn. She has aging clients who are upset by a perceived worsening of their looks, their sexual performance, their physical abilities, their memory. For them, as for herself, an acceptance of aging is necessary for growth, but “it’s not a resigned acceptance; it’s an embracing acceptance,” she said.
“Wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity,” Professor Ardelt said.
True, acceptance of reality is an ingredient in wisdom. But the distinction between resigned and embracing acceptance smacks of the bogus. Let's say you are 80+. You are now deep in the backcountry of old age. You must accept with equanimity the attendant deterioration. Whining will only make things worse and no one wants to hear it. You must set a good example. But how does one embrace the deterioration of one's physical and mental powers? That is a bit like physically embracing the skeleton that one will soon become.
I can think of only two ways to embrace one's deterioration, neither of them live options for the average reader of the Grey Lady. There are those who have had enough of this life and embrace deterioration as a means to its cessation. When Ludwig Wittgenstein learned that he had cancer, he said, "Good." And there are those who look beyond this life to a truer and better one. They are the mystics, the religious, and the true philosophers.
But if you are a non-nihilistic naturalist, someone who believes that this life is satisfactory as it is and worth living and that there is no other, then how the hell can you embrace the Buddha's triad of sickness, old age, and death? Besides, there would seem to be little point to the personal "growth" consequent upon "embracing" aging if one is soon to be snuffed out altogether.
Here is another excerpt:
True personal wisdom involves five elements, said Professor Staudinger, now a life span psychologist and professor at Columbia University. They are self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities.
That's pretty good except for the bit about priorities and values not being absolute.
Suppose you are about to eat an excellent dinner when you notice that a neighbor is being viciously assaulted in her front yard. Do you finish your dinner and then go to the assistance of your neighbor? First things first! I say that it is absolutely true, and absolutely evident, that your neighbor's health and well-being take priority over your delectation of an unnecessary meal.
Our man in Boulder, Spencer Case, here interviews Roger Scruton. I have reproduced the whole piece, bolding those portions I consider most important. To my pleasure, I find myself in agreement with what Scruton maintains below, though he ought to have avoided the "ideological concentration camp" exaggeration. I reproduce the whole of the interview to preserve it in case the link goes bad or the site goes down.
In this exclusive interview with The College Fix, globally renown British philosopher and polemicist Roger Scruton addresses the decline of the modern university.
Scruton, a highly respected, decorated scholar and author of more than 30 books, including his recent How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism, suggests colleges today have become more like “closed, ideological … concentration camps.”
He explores why that happened, why it’s wrong, and offers solutions. The interview was conducted by College Fix contributor Spencer Case last week at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
SC: So, I want to know how you would describe the state of the university. And I’m thinking in particular about the United States, but in other places as well. Do you see things generally moving in a positive direction or a negative direction, and why?
RS: I’m unusual in that I’m somebody with an academic status but who’s not part, not really part, of a university. I’ve been twenty years freelancing, supporting myself through writing and various small business-type activities, because I value my own independence, really. So I have observed it from the outside, but I do have the impression that there are things which are going wrong.
One is the way in which the difficult topics, the difficult subjects, rather, in the humanities, are being displaced by purely ideological subjects. It used to be the case that at the heart of the humanities there were difficult things like the classical languages, modern languages, literature –read properly and critically discussed – and so on, the “Great Books” and all the rest, in music the study of harmony and counter-point, in philosophy the analytical discipline that we know about so well. All those were real intellectual disciplines. But I see more and more they’re being replaced by gender studies and other forms of essentially ideological confrontation with the modern world.
SC: Now since you’re on that, that’s a great segue to another question. The question is: there is a kind of tension between, I think, more traditional type philosophers and people who are into feminism, gender studies, this kind of stuff. I’m sort of the mind that these fields inject politics and political activism too much into philosophy. But they have responses to that. One of their responses is: “We’re concerned about justice, we’re concerned about authority, and these really are perennial philosophical issues.”
RS: Yeah, sure. There is plenty of room for people to include as part of the philosophical discussions of justice the whole question about the relation between man and woman, all the questions that feminists consider. There’s absolutely no reason why that shouldn’t be included. But, if the assumption is that one has to be a feminist, one has to arrive at a particular conclusion as a result of studying this, then what is involved is not philosophical discussion but ideology. The whole defining nature of philosophy is that you start from free inquiry and you don’t actually know what you’re going to come up with as a result of your arguments. To think that you have to have the conclusion prior to the investigation is effectually to say that this is a form of indoctrination.
SC: I mean, don’t you think that you hold certain conclusions in advance of investigation? I mean, you probably knew in advance of investigation that you weren’t likely to become a global skeptic, for instance.
RS: Of course there are certain things. All of us hold certain premises on which our world view rests and we find it very difficult to question those premises. But we also know that there are controversial areas in which other people do not agree with us, and when we enter those areas it is our obligation as philosophers to open our minds, consider the arguments, and perhaps arrive at conclusions that we didn’t expect. And surely, this area about the nature of the relation between the sexes and so on is one of those. It’s quite clear that the feminist position is not accepted by everyone in the world around us, that it isn’t something that you have to have as a premise for your worldview if we are to see the world in which we live as it is. It’s not like the morality which tells us “Thou shalt not kill” and so on. And there is a kind of a closing of the mind that has happened here which excludes those that disagree with a particular position. And considering that some of those are highly intelligent people who don’t just wallow in their own prejudices, this is obviously a threat to our academic freedom.
SC: When you look at the current state of higher education, is there one philosophical mistake that you see implicated in getting us to the current sorry state of things?
RS: Well, yes. I would say that … [pause] yeah, I think there is one basic weakness in all the developments that I most would criticize. And that is that they are based upon embodying an ideological conclusion into the curriculum rather than a method of inquiry. And I think all of the humanities that have made our university so important and so great and made them contribute to the surrounding civic order, they all had this idea in their hearts of free inquiry into a subject matter, a defined subject matter, real intellectual questions, and a body of literature that helped people to understand the area. But I think what has happened is that new subjects, or new disciplines, so called, have come into being which do not require methods of inquiry, but they do require adherence to a particular conclusion.
SC: Alright, well I want to ask you about the thesis of a book I’m reading now by Robert Nisbet. The book is The Degradation of the Academic Dogma. And he basically argues that the university is the last medieval guild, the last medieval institution, to have survived the influences of modernism. And it requires certain things, like the respect for seeking truth for its own sake and scholarship, and it requires a kind of authority structure and it requires things that are really sort of out of place in the modern world. And he sees that the university is now being eroded by a cultural outlook that is incompatible with the values it requires. And I’m wondering if you could comment on that.
RS: Yes. I haven’t read this book, but I do have a tendency to agree with Robert Nisbet when I read him. I think the universities have certainly changed from what they were, from what they were when I was educated, actually. It is no longer possible to see them as uniquely involved in the dispassionate pursuit for truth for its own sake. That is something that is gone, for the reasons that I’ve said earlier, that in the humanities at least disciplines which pursued truth for its own sake have been replaced with disciplines that pursue political conformity. And the indoctrination of a specific worldview which is that of a very small minority, which has, I think, no relation to the way that normal people live. So in a sense he’s right.
But I don’t think – after all, the university isn’t entirely dominated by the humanities. On the contrary, the humanities have had a dwindling role to play for the very reason that they’ve become politicized. So they’ve become uninteresting to many students. A good university has a flourishing science section, and flourishing professional sections devoted to medicine and law and so on, and that’s always been the case, since the Middle Ages.
SC: Now, that’s great that you segue into the humanities. If you’re looking at the university today and the trends that are affecting it – even superficially – one of things that you’re going to notice is this decline in the humanities. And I’ve noticed that there are really two different components to this trend. There’s a sort of “bottom-up” trend of students not being as interested in it, fewer choosing to take up the topic. And there’s also a “top-down” component to it. The top-down component is administrators seem hostile to the humanities …
SC: … and it seems philosophy in particular. So if there are funding cuts, we know who’s going to bear most of the brunt of that. And I wonder, do you think that they are simply responding to the desires of the students, the preferences of the students, or is there some greater ideology or something behind that?
RS: I’m not sure, because I don’t know the situation in American universities as well as you do. I would say that administrators are obviously very concerned to raise funds for the university, and if it’s a question of closing down a department, they’re not going to close down a department that brings in funding. And of course, the humanities departments, on the whole, don’t bring in funding in the way that science departments do, or law departments. So, they are vulnerable. And, having become vulnerable, they make themselves more vulnerable, of course, if they simply become centers of trouble-making ideological conformity. That inevitably will have a negative impact. But I don’t know whether the administrators have an ideological motive.
In the university where I taught part-time recently, at St. Andrews in Scotland, they have closed down departments because of lack of funding, and it has been entirely on financial grounds. But it’s interesting that the department they closed down first was music, while keeping open business studies and things like that which are, on my view, complete non-sense, really, for a university to be involved in. But the business studies departments produce money, the music department didn’t, even though, of course, music, from Plato’s day, has been the fundamental discipline in the humanities. Plato made it fundamental to the university when he invented the academy, and it should have remained so. But it is vulnerable because it’s expensive to run and doesn’t bring in money. And yet, it seems to me, a university that doesn’t have a flourishing music department doesn’t really deserve the name.
SC: Final question. Also in Nisbet’s book he makes the point that the decline of the university doesn’t necessarily mean the decline of higher learning. The decline of the university could herald the dawn of new institutions that fill the same role, and perhaps may do the same things even better. I think of things like the Khan Academy and the Teaching Company, and the Teaching Company allows people to buy cds of lectures on various topics. And it seems to me that if you want to be an autodidact this really is the best time in which to live. You just have the ability to learn a lot on your own, and pretty cheaply. And I wonder if that is encouraging to you.
RS: It is, in a way. I would hate to see the universities disappear because they are fundamental institutions in Western society. They have been symbols of intellectual freedom, symbols of the civic virtue which I think most distinguishes us. Namely, the ability of people of different views to live together and to discuss their differences. That is a fantastic thing, and the university is a symbol of that. But I agree that the more universities become these closed, ideological sort of concentration camps, the more people will look for their education outside. With the internet and everything, nothing there can stop them. And one has to accept that. And maybe that will force universities to become a bit more realistic about what they’re offering.
SC: That’s all I have. Is there anything you would like to add?
RS: Oh, what would I like to add? [laughter] I think I would like to add one thing, which is it seems to me that universities need to make an effort to reach out to those who disagree with the general liberal ideology, that they ought to be more self-knowing about all this. They ought to ask themselves the question “how is it that we got into this position, where only one point of view is represented, and also that any other point of view is persecuted?” which seems to be the growing reality. And I think universities do need to go through a period of self-criticism where they ask themselves that, and whether an effort shouldn’t be made simply to open things again.
Fix contributor Spencer Case is a philosophy graduate student at the University of Colorado. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and an Egypt Fulbright alumnus.
Another post from the old blog, dated 3 November 2006. A redacted version, less crude than the original.
The worst bores in the world are those who subject their listeners to blow-by-blow accounts of their medical procedures. Fear not. I just want to report that I underwent a screening colonoscopy this morning, and that if you are fifty years of age or older, and hitherto 'unscoped,' you should schedule one too.
But don't procrastinate as I did. It is not too much of a hassle. Yesterday I subsisted on clear fluids alone, my last meal being Wednesday's dinner. At four PM I swallowed four Dulocolax tablets and at six began quaffing four liters of a solution ($35 out of pocket, insurance wouldn't cover any part of it due to its one-time consumption) designed for lavage. That term, from Fr. laver and L. lavare, signifies the therapeutic washing out of an organ or orifice. And wash out my lower GI tract it did.
The thought of deep analysis (deeper than sigmoidoscopy) may unnerve some of you, but if your experience is like mine you won't be aware of a thing due to the narcotic cocktail they mainline into your arm. They gave me a bigger shot than I requested, as I wanted to watch the proceedings on the monitor. My last words right after the good Dr. Stein introduced himself and the nurse opened the IV valve were, "Time to be analyzed!"
I refrained from such other prepared witticisms as "Doc, I'm Mabel, if you're able" and philosophical nuggets about wide and narrow 'scope.') I didn't want to cause offense to the sweet nurses who may have been proper Mormons. In no time at all I was floating face-down in the sweet waters of Lethe. Next thing I knew I was putting on my clothes and stumbling out the door with a clean bill of gastroenterological health.
I was too stupefied to remember my prepared parting joke: What did the gastroenterologist say when asked about the meaning of life? "It depends on the liver."
Should I be blogging about a subject like this? Maybe not. But it was no physician who convinced me to get scoped out, but a regular guy in the pool who told me about his experience and how polyps were found.
Maybe it takes a blogger to get you off youranalysandum.
Have I gone on too long, hard by the boundary of boredom? Perhaps. So let me go on a bit more. A physician my own age once recommended a screening colonoscopy. I said, "Have you had one, Doc?" "No, I'm a runner," "Well, I'm a runner too." The doctor's enthymematic argument was bad, but it helped me procrastinate. And my wife once saw him coming out of a fast-food joint. But he was a good practioner and diagnostician. He had a scientific mind, something too many medicos lack.
This post is for my old college buddy Tom Coleman, fellow Kerouac aficionado, who played Dean to my Sal back in the day. It's Saturday night, the day's scribbling is done, and I just made myself a wine spodiodi. It is a sort of alcoholic sandwich with mean bourbon the meat and sweet wine the bread. I just made one with sangria, but it is usually made with port. Pour some wine into a glass, add some bourbon, then throw in some more wine. On the rocks or not as is your wont. Repeat as necessary.
From On the Road:
... one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub. Slim Gaillard is a tall, thin Negro with big sad eyes who's always saying 'Right-orooni' and 'How 'bout a little bourbon-arooni.' In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar and bongo drums. When he gets warmed up he takes off his undershirt and really goes. He does and says anything that comes into his head. He'll sing 'Cement Mixer, Put-ti Put-ti' and suddenly slow down the beat and brood over his bongos with fingertips barely tapping the skin as everybody leans forward breathlessly to hear; you think he'll do this for a minute or so, but he goes right on, for as long as an hour, making an imperceptible little noise with the tips of his fingernails, smaller and smaller all the time till you can't hear it any more and sounds of traffic come in the open door. Then he slowly gets up and takes the mike and says, very slowly, 'Great-orooni ... fine-ovauti ... hello-orooni ... bourbon-orooni ... all-orooni ... how are the boys in the front row making out with their girls-orooni ... orooni ... vauti ... oroonirooni ..." He keeps this up for fifteen minutes, his voice getting softer and softer till you can't hear. His great sad eyes scan the audience. Dean stands in the back, saying, 'God! Yes!' -- and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. 'Sal, Slim knows time, he knows time.'
Light up a cigarodi, mix yourself a wine spodiodi and then dig Slim Gaillard's Cement Mixer mentioned above. While you're at it, check out the cat on bass in this clip. Go, man, go! (Never did get around to reading John Clellon Holmes' Go.)
Brian Leiter is known for his academic gossip site, Leiter Reports. He is also known for his careerism, thuggishness, and political correctness. Some call him Ladder Man because of his obsession with rankings and status. (One of the meanings of the German Leiter is ladder; another is leader as in Gauleiter.) Others call him Brianus Climacus because he is a climber and careerist. For others he is just the Academic Thug. Recently, however, some on the Left have been turning on him. This from a reader:
I don’t know if you’ve been watching all this develop, but some people are more and more willing to come out publically against Leiter (though I don’t mean to suggest that I approve of the position they are siding with in order to do so). See the second paragraph in particular for background (with links):
At the moment it does indeed seem that Leiter is being devoured by the world he created, the hyper-professionalized world of academic philosophy. The conception of philosophy as a “profession” (and all the b.s. that entails) combined with the PC tendencies of academia at present have given birth to an ugly sort of monster, and Leiter has inadvertently stumbled into its labyrinth. But he does conceive himself as a sort of Theseus in this context, and he has promised a long reply to his critics. In this one specific instance I think he is in the right against many of those attacking him—their attacks coming from an even more radical version of PC than his own. But still he’s in the wrong overall (and your description of him is spot on), and this is what he gets.
I had asked: Is pushback against Leiter a case of the Left eating their own? When do these feminists and their fellow travellers actually do philosophy? Methinks too much of their time is occupied with issues of professional status and standing, 'diversity,' careerism, and the like. That is what I can't stand in Leiter as well, that corpulent apparatchik of political correctness.
Was ist dein Ziel in der Philosophie? Der Fliege den Ausweg aus dem Fliegenglas zeigen.
What is your goal in philosophy? To show the fly the way out of the fly glass.
Why does the bug need to be shown the way out? Pop the cork and he's gone.
Why did Wittgenstein feel the need to philosophize his way out of philosophy? He should have known that metaphilosophy and anti-philosophy are just more philosophy with all that that entails: inconclusiveness, endlessness . . . . He should have just walked away from philosophy.
If the room is too smoky, there is no necessity that you remain in it. You are free to go, the door is unlocked. This figure's from Epictetus and he had the quitting of life in view. But the same holds for the quitting of philosophy. Just do it, if that's what you want. It can be done. I'm not saying it should be done. On the contrary.
What cannot be done, however, is to justify one's exit. (That would be like copulating your way to chastity.) For any justification proffered, perforce and willy-nilly, will be just more philosophy, and you will remain stuck within the bottle You cannot have it both ways. You either walk away or stay.