But, of course, there’s more here than mere tone deafness to public opinion. The president’s flat line response to the Charley Hebdo massacre and then the terrorist attack on the kosher market in Paris (which he failed to characterize as an act of anti-Semitism in his public statement after it happened) illustrated his lack of comfort on this terrain. This is a president that has spent his time in office trying desperately to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds to change their perception of the United States. That he has failed in this respect is no longer in question but his disinterest in taking part in a symbolic response to extremist Islam stands in direct contrast to his eagerness for détente with an Iran that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The cold shoulder he gave the Paris march resonates not so much because of the odd and very conspicuous absence of an American representative of any stature, but because it fits with the perception of his attitudes.
London Karl is a young Irishman living in London. I had heard that Birmingham is a 'no go' zone, so I asked London Ed about it. Ed told me that it is 80% 'no go' but that nobody would want to go there anyway: it is rainy and like Detroit. When I mentioned this to London Karl, he wrote back:
Funny you mention Birmingham. I went there for the first time on Saturday. It has a reputation for having a large Asian, Black, and Muslim population, and this was certainly very noticeable on the streets. I also saw the usual table on the main thoroughfare with Muslims handing out free Korans and Islamic literature, with a few Whites availing. One could say this was insensitive, given what was going on in Paris, or one could say that it was non-violent Muslims trying to ensure their faith was not being confounded with that of the terrorists.
Actually, the real ghettos in England are further north. An acquaintance of mine lectured in the University at Bradford, and told me it was a nightmare, as large numbers of the undergrad intake couldn't even speak, let alone write, English! He was instructed by the admins to pass them anyway, as if he didn't, there would be the inevitable 'racist' outcry. Unfortunately the press are so soft and PC in the UK that anyone who even raises legitimate fears is immediately slapped with the 'racist' tag, as indeed is the case in Ireland.
I think one thing people are underestimating is that it only takes small bands of dedicated elitists to change the course of history and certainly the history of ideas and religion. Think of Christians in the first three centuries, Protestants in the 16th, French revolutionaries, Nazis, Bolsheviks etc.
Karl is quite right and wise beyond his years: it only takes a few to bring about huge changes some of which eventuate in disaster. This is why decent people ought not sit back and do nothing. You must do your bit. Speak out. Vote. Blog.
It doesn't take much to shut down a great city such as Paris or Boston. A pressure-cooker bomb, an armed assault of an editorial office by a few Muslim fanatics. What are you PC-ers waiting for? A nuclear event in Manhattan? Do you think that might make a dent in your precious 'lifestyle.'
You say it is "unimaginable"? Then I suggest your powers of imagination are weak. People said the same about 9/11 before 9/11 became 9/11.
In reaction to the murderous attack by Muslim terrorists on Charbonnier and Co. at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many have jumped on the "I am Charlie" bandwagon. It is quite understandable. But perhaps a little thought should be given to the question whether one ought to endorse a political pornographer who publishes stuff like the following. Might there be something called toleration extremism? Might it be that while one has a legal right to publish almost anything, one has a moral obligation to exercise restraint? Why do we value freedom of speech? Is it valuable as an end in itself or only as a means to valuable ends? Is it reasonable to maintain that any and all public self-expression is a good just in virtue of its being self-expression? I hope to say something about these questions in the next few days. Meanwhile, please think a bit before trumpeting your identity or rather solidarity with 'Charlie.'
My point in posting the following, needless to say, is not to mock the Christian Trinity but to raise in a graphic manner some very serious questions that require careful thought.
The Australian philosopher John Passmore (1914 - 2004) is described in his Telegraph obituary as "an Andersonian radical, swept away, though not to the point of unquestioning devotion, by his Scottish-born philosophy professor, John Anderson . . . ." The influence of Anderson on Passmore is very clear from the latter's Philosophical Reasoning (Basic Books, 1969; orig. publ. 1961). The Andersonian Chapter Three, "The Two-Worlds Argument," is the cynosure of my current interest, in particular, the distinction Passmore makes between what he calls entity-monism and what he calls existence-monism. (Anderson, as far as I know does not use these terms and, as far as I know, they have found no resonance among the epigoni. The terms are not found in the index of A. J. Baker's Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson, Cambridge UP, 1986. And Quentin Gibson, The Existence Principle, Kluwer, 1998, p. 14, dismisses 'existence-monism' as a misleading label for Anderson's view.)
In this entry I will present the distinction and then comment critically upon it.
Passmore tells us that
Entity-monism is the doctrine that 'ultimately' there is only one real entity. What we normally regard as distinct things -- whether they be chairs, or musical compositions, or human being -- are, all of them, appearances of this one entity. (38)
[. . .]
Existence-monism is difficult to define in general terms. But we might put it thus: when we say that something exists, or that things of a certain kind exist, this exist or exists has an invariant meaning whatever the 'something' or the 'kind' may be, i.e. there are not sorts, or levels, or orders of existence. More accurately, what is asserted by 'X exists' can always be asserted by a proposition which contains an 'is' which has, in this sense, an invariant meaning. Existence-monism, unlike entity-monism, does admit of varieties. Philosophers might say, and have said, that to exist is to be perceived, or to be in process, or to be spatiotemporal, or to be a possible subject for physical investigation, or to be a thing with properties, and do on. (39, bolding added)
I have two criticisms.
1. There is first of all a slide from a semantic thesis, a thesis about meaning, to an ontological thesis, a thesis about being. Passmore conflates the semantic claim that 'exists' and cognates have an invariant meaning or sense with the ontological claim that there are no sorts or kinds or levels or orders or modes or ways of being/existence. But as I see it, one can consistently maintain both that (i) 'exists' and cognates is univocal in sense across all its uses and that (ii) there are different modes of existence. For this reason, (i) and (ii) are distinct theses.
Let me give a quick illustration. Carpets exist and bulges in carpets exist. In the sentence immediately preceding 'exist' is invariant in sense across both occurrences (both tokenings). And yet it makes good sense to say that carpets and bulges exist in different ways. A carpet can exist with or without a bulge; but no carpet bulge can exist without a carpet whose bulge it is. If a substance is defined as an entity logically capable of independent existence, then a carpet is a substance. But surely no bulge in a carpet is a substance. For no carpet bulge is logically capable of independent existence. It is rather an accident of the carpet as substance. Carpet and bulge exist in different ways: the carpet exists in itself; the bulge in another. Or: the carpet exists independently; the bulge dependently. To think of carpet and bulge as Humean "distinct existences" strains credulity. What we have here are not two Hume-distinct items that stand in a causal relation. Nor do they stand in a logical relation if such relationsd are defined over propositions. What we have here is irreducible existential dependence: the bulge depends in its existence upon the carpet, but not vice versa. To make sense of this example we need to speak of two different modes of existence.
Suppose you accept this. Surely the acceptance is logically consistent with saying that both carpets and bulges exist in the same sense of 'exist.' And what sense is that? It is the sense expressed by the so-called existential quantifier. A better name for it is 'particular quantifier.' In 'Some items are carpets' and 'Some items are bulges,' the predicate 'Some items are ___' has the same sense. And yet carpets and bulges, like faces and smiles, exist in different ways. Or at least one can with no breach of logical consistency maintain this ontological thesis while also holding to the semantic univocity of 'exists' and cognates. Just don't confuse the ontological with the semantic. Don't confuse ways of existing with senses of 'exists.'
Well, I hope you followed that. Now on to the second criticism where the going gets tougher.
2. Passmore clearly sees that one could not sensibly maintain that to be = to be water. "Nobody could now win credence who asserted that to be is to be a quantity of water, however plausible that doctrine might have looked to Thales." (39) And the reason would not be that we now know that water is not an element, or that there are stuffs other than water. The reason lies deeper. If to exist is to be water, then 'Water exists' would be equivalent to the tautology 'Water is water,' when it obviously isn't.
It seems clear that there is no kind of thing or kind of stuff that we could invoke to give descriptive content to existence in general. There is no K such that it will come out true that to be = to be a K or a quantity of K. No one will maintain that to be is to be a lump of coal or to be a cat or to be a quantity of hydrogen. There are two problems here. First, if to be = to be a K, then only Ks could exist. If to be is to be a cat, then only cats could exist: everything would be a cat. Not good! Second, even if there is some K that everything is, being K and existing are not the same. For to say that Ks exist is not to say that Ks are Ks.
What about: to be is to be spatiotemporal? One problem with this naturalist proposal is that it is circular. A thing cannot be spatiotemporal unless it exists in space-time. But then the proposal comes to this: for x to exist is for x to be spatiotemporal and exist. This point about circularity is equivalent to the second point I just made. To say of a spatiotemporal thing that exists is not to say that it is spatiotemporal. To give it a modal twist: it is necessary that spatiotemporal items be spatiotemporal, but contingent that any exist.
So it comes as a surprise when Passmore says, with respect to "To be is to have a place in Space-Time," that "this sort of difficulty does not arise," namely the difficulty in the water example. Why not? Because, "Space-Time is not the sort of thing to which existence is ascribed or which is used to distinguish one thing from another." (39) But surely we do ascribe existence to spacetime. And it is question-begging to say that spatiotemporality does not distinguish one thing from another: it distinguishes concrete things from abstract things. Granted, it does not distinguish items in space time, but neither does being a cat distinguish cats from one another.
So is seems to me that 'To be is to be water' and 'To be is to be spatiotemporal' are on a par. The only difference is that 'water' picks out a natural stuff-kind while 'spatiotemporal pickls out a mode of being.
Pace Anderson and Passmore, being cannot be identified with being spatiotemporal.
What then becomes of existence-monism? Existence-monism amounts to the claim that there is a single way of being or existence as opposed to two or more ways. Thus existence-monism is taken by Andersonians to rule out Plato's two-world theory according to which Forms exist atemporally while the phenomenal particulars that participate in them exist in a temporal way. But as I pointed out in my first criticism, one cannot validly infer a single way of being from a single use of 'exists.' Univocity at the level of sense doesn't entail modal sngleness at the level of being.
What reason, then, do we have to think that there is a single way of being? Well, you might say that it is evident to the senses that there are things in space and time. Fine, but that doesn't show that there is a way of being that is their way of being, even with the addition of the premise that everything that exists exists in space and time. That is, it does not show that we must distinguish between nature, existence, and mode of existence. Why can't we eke by with just nature and existence?
Besides, if there is exactly one way of being, and spatiotemporal items, which we know to exist, exist in that way, does it not follow that to be = to be spatiotemporal, that existence reduces to spatiotemporality? But we saw above under #2 that that can't be right: there is no F such that to exist = to be F. (Wel, there is one case, but it is a very specila one idneed!)
I suspect that we cannot speak of a way of being at all unless we speak of two or more ways of being. For what could motivate the tripartite distinction among nature, existence, and mode, if not examples like that of the carpet and the bulge where it is highly plausible to say that the items distinguished exist in diferent ways? I am assuming that one has not made the mistake exposed in #1 above, namely, the mistake of confusing senses and modes and sliding illicitly from the univocity of 'exists' to the singleness of mode of being.
There are three positions that want distinguishing:
Existence-Monism: There is exactly one mode of being.
Existence-Pluralism: There are two or more modes of being.
Existence-Nihilism: There are no modes of being.
The real debate is between the pluralists and the nihilists. The monist position of the Andersonians is the result of confusion. Or at least that is the way it looks at the moment. But we press on.
Pope Francis is a foolish man, and folly brings danger in its train. That is my harsh judgment. For documentation, I refer you to an excellent article by William Kilpatrick, Looking at Islam Through Catholic Eyes. Kilpatrick is too politic to draw the harsh conclusion; he prefers to say that the good pope has "clouded the issue." Excerpts (bolding added):
Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation seems to be in line with Massignon’s attempt to put a Christian face on Islam. The part that stands out is the following: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” [my emphasis]. Here, the Pope goes beyond the Vatican II documents and beyond the conciliatory statements of his recent predecessors. Some will call it a step forward, but there are reasons to think it is a step in the wrong direction.
The Koran is replete with admonitions to commit violence and terror. What can Pope Francis possibly mean by saying that a “proper reading” of the Koran shows that it is “opposed to every form of violence”? There are many violent passages in the Old Testament as well, but Christians believe that these have to be understood in light of the New Testament. However, there is no New Testament in Islam. Islam’s other “sacred” documents such as the Sira (the life of Muhammad), the Hadith (collections of the words and deeds of Muhammad), and the various law manuals confirm the violent teachings of the Koran. These books give us a fuller picture of Islam than does the Koran, but in no way do they soften or reinterpret the violent passages. If anything, they cast doubt on the peaceful passages. The Islamic doctrine of abrogation, which is based on sura 2:106 of the Koran, holds that if two passages in the Koran contradict each other, the later verse cancels or abrogates the earlier verse. Since most of the peaceful Koranic verses come from the early Meccan period, many Muslim authorities hold that they are superseded by the latter violent verses.
Some Sufi and Ahmadiyya sects have come up with more spiritualized interpretations of the Koran but, as noted before of the Sufis, they are far out of the Islamic mainstream and are often persecuted as heretics. Recently, an Ahmadi doctor was arrested in Pakistan for reading from the Koran because, as reported in the Ahmadiyya Times, “According to the laws of Pakistan it is a criminal act for an Ahmadi to read the Holy Qur’an or act in a manner that may be perceived as the Ahmadi is ‘posing as a Muslim.’”
[ . . . ]
Yet, at the risk of redundancy, it bears repeating that the spiritual tradition of Rumi, al-Hallaj, and the Sufi masters lies at the margins of the Islamic faith. For example, the use of music, poetry, and dance in rituals practiced by Rumi’s followers are considered un-Islamic by many, if not most, Islamic authorities. But, thanks in large part to the work of Massignon, this mystical tradition is looked upon by many influential Catholics as the authentic Islam. Thus, one man’s skewed and partial reading of Islam has come to color the “official” Church view of Islam.
As Pope Francis asserts, it is possible to read the Koran as being “opposed to every form of violence.” We know it is possible because that it is the way that some have read it. However, to say that this reading is the “proper” or “authentic” one is debatable, even misleading. At a time when clarity about Islam may be a matter of life or death for many Christians, the Pope’s statement may, unfortunately, only further cloud the issue.
In case you missed it, 'abrogation' is in effect in these pages. Thus yesterday's fine entry on the No True Scotsman fallacy-- which you really ought to study and think through as opposed to skim -- abrogates and supersedes an earlier effort along the same lines from February 2009 which was a bit sloppy.
You are getting philosophy lessons here, muchachos, and for free! Can you beat that?
This site is entirely pro bono, your bonum and mine. My pledge: No advertising! No tip jar. No money-grubbing. And I say that as a conservative who believes, nay, knows, that the only way to go for healthy societies is free markets under the rule of law.
Why is Mexico such a bloody mess? Lack of the rule of law. See article below. Why did the USSR collapse under its own weight? State control of the economy.
A member of the distaff contingent advises. If men are too 'cocky,' then perhaps the female equivalent is the answer rather than the cultivation of grievances:
How did we create an entire class of highly privileged, mostly affluent young women who feel unsafe on campus, microaggressed at every turn, utterly unable to cope with the garden-variety misdemeanours of boys and men, who have been behaving badly since time began despite our many efforts (most quite successful) to civilize them?
Well, you know the answer. The universities are hothouses for a grievance culture that sees racism, sexism and misogyny under every rug. Many of the faculty derive their livelihoods from it. These institutions have constructed increasingly elaborate codes of conduct and large administrative apparatuses to detect and uproot these evils, however subtle and invisible they may be to ordinary people.
John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (Yale UP, 1989, pp. 48-49):
From the point of view of the understanding of this state of islam [submission to Allah] the Muslim sees no distinction between the religious and the secular. The whole of life is to be lived in the presence of Allah and is the sphere of God's absolute claim and limitless compassion and mercy. And so islam, God-centredness, is not only an inner submission to the sole Lord of the universe but also a pattern of corporate life in accordance with God's will. It involves both salat, worship, and falah, the good embodied in behaviour. Through the five appointed moments of prayer each day is linked to God. Indeed almost any activity may be begun with Bismillah ('in the name of Allah'); and plans and hopes for the future are qualified by Inshallah ('if Allah wills'). Thus life is constantly punctuated by the remembrance of God. It is a symptom of this that almsgiving ranks with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and confession of faith as one of the five 'pillars' of Islam. Within this holistic conception the 'secular' spheres of politics, government, law, commerce, science and the arts all come within the scope of religious obedience.
What Hick calls a "holistic conception," I would call totalitarian. Islam is totalitarian in a two-fold sense. It aims to regulate every aspect and every moment of the individual believer's life. (And if you are not a believer, you must either convert or accept dhimmitude.) But it is also totalitarian in a corporate sense in that it aims to control every aspect of society in all its spheres, just as Hick points out supra.
Islam, therefore, is profoundly at odds with the values of the West. For we in the West, whether liberals or conservatives, accept church (mosque)-state separation. We no doubt argue heatedly over what exactly it entails, but we are agreed on the main principle. I regularly criticize the shysters of the ACLU for their extremist positions on this question; but I agree with them that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ."
This raises a very serious question. Is Islam -- pure, unEnlightened, undiluted, fundamentalist, theocratic Islam -- deserving of First Amendment protection? We read in the First Amendment that Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Should that be understood to mean that the Federal government shall not prohibit the establishment and free exercise of a totalitarian, fundamentalist theocratic religion in a particular state, say Michigan?
Note also that Islam is not a religion like Buddhism or Christianity. It is as much a political ideology as a religion. In this regard it is very similar to the totalitarian political ideology, Communism. Buddha and Jesus were not warriors; Muhammad was.
The USA is a nation with a secular government. Suppose there was a religion whose aim was to subvert our secular government. Does commitment to freedom of religion enjoin toleration of such a religion? As a religion, Islam is the worst of the great religions; as a political ideology, however, it is a formidable enemy. If it prevails, we and our values lose. Are we under some sort of obligation to tolerate that which would destroy us and our way of life? Or does toleration have limits?
These are important questions and they need to be asked. But so-called 'liberals' will scream in protest at my mere mention of them. So what happened to the spirit of free and open inquiry? I am inspired to a parody:
Where have all the liberals gone,long time passing? Where have all the liberals gone, long time ago? Where have all the liberals gone? Gone to Pee Cee every one When will they ever learn? When will they e-v-e-r learn?
This is a substantial revision, in the light of recent events, of an entry from about six years ago. This post examines the fallacy that Antony Flew brought to our attention and suggests that 'No True Muslim' is an equally good name for it.
In logic, a fallacy is not a false belief but a pattern of reasoning that is both typical and in some way specious. Specious reasoning, by the very etymology of the term, appears correct but is not. Thus a fallacy is not just any old mistake in reasoning, but a typical or recurrent mistake that has some tendency to seduce or mislead our thinking. A taxonomy of fallacies is useful insofar as it helps prevent one from seducing oneself or being seduced by others.
Fallacies are either formal or informal. An example of a formal fallacy is Affirming the Consequent. An example of an informal fallacy is Petitio Principii. Note than an argument that is formally valid can yet be informally fallacious. Arguments that beg the question are examples.
Among the so-called informal fallacies is Antony Flew's No True Scotsman. Suppose A says, "No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge." B replies, "But my uncle Angus puts sugar in his porridge." A responds, "Your Uncle Angus is no true Scotsman!"
Second Example. Call it 'No True Muslim.' A says, "Islam is a religion of peace; Muslims do not do things like murder cartoonists and journalists with whose ideas they disagree." B replies, "On 7 January 2015, two Muslim gunmen forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France and killed Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the satirical weekly, and several others." A responds, "Those gunmen were not true Muslims."
Third Example. A: "Nowadays all chess players use algebraic notation." B: "Not so, Ed Yetman does not use algebraic notation. He uses descriptive notation exclusively." A: "Ed Yetman? You call him a chess player?!"
Fourth Example. A: "When a complete neuroscience is achieved, we will know everything about mind, brain, and consciousness." B: "I can't agree, even a completed neuroscience will not explain how consciousness arises from brain activity." A: "A neuroscience that can't explain consciousness would not be a completed neuroscience."
Clearly, something has gone wrong in these examples. Person A is making an illicit dialectical move of some kind. The general form of the mistake seems to be as follows. Person A makes a universal assertion, one featuring a quantifier such as 'all,' 'no,' 'everything' whether explicit or tacit. Person B then adduces a counterexample to the universal claim. Person A illicitly dismisses the counterexample by modifying his original assertion with the use of 'true' or 'real' some equivalent designed to exclude the counterexample. Thus Uncle Angus is excluded as a counterexample by dismissing him as not a true Scotman, and the Muslim gunmen are excluded by dismissing them as not true Muslims.
The fallacy is informal since the fallaciousness depends on the content or subject matter. So we need to ask: When is it not a fallacy? By my count, there are at least four classes of cases in which the No True Scotsman move is not fallacious.
1. When the original assertion is either a logical truth or an analytic truth. If I point out that all bachelors are male, and you reply that your sister Mary is a bachelor, then I am justified in dismissing your 'counterexample' by saying that Mary is not a true bachelor, or a bachelor in the strict sense of the term.
2. When the original assertion is synthetic but necessary. If Saul Kripke is right, 'Water is H2O' is synthetic but necessary. If I say that water is H2O, and you object that heavy water is not H2O but D2O, then I am entitled to respond that heavy water is not water.
3. When the original assertion involves stipulation. Suppose Smith defines a naturalist as one who denies the existence of God, and I respond that McTaggart is an atheist who is not a naturalist. Have I shown that Smith is wrong? Not all. Smith may respond that McTaggart is not a naturalist as he defines the term. Wholly or partially stipulative definitions cannot be said to be either true or false although they can be more or less useful for classificatory purposes. Second example. Suppose Jack claims that libertarians favor open borders and Jill responds by adducing the case of libertarian John Jay Ray who does not favor open borders. Jack is within his epistemic rights in saying that Ray is not a full-fledged libertarian.
4. When the original assertion specifies the content of a belief-system or worldview. Suppose I point out that Communists are anti-religion, believing as they do that it is the opiate of the masses, an impediment to social progress, the sigh of the oppressed, flowers on the chains that enslave, etc. You say you know people who are Communists but are not against religion. I am entitled to the retort that such 'Communists' are not Communists at all; they are not true or real or genuine Communists, that they are CINOs, Commies in Name Only, etc. I have not committed the fallacy under discussion.
Back to the Muslims. A Muslim is so-called because of his adherence to the religion, Islam. There are certain core beliefs that are definitive of Islam, and thus essential to it, and that a Muslim must accept if he is to count as a Muslim. To take a blindingly evident example, no Muslim can be an atheist. Also: no Muslim can be a trinitarian, or a pantheist, or a polytheist, or believe in the Incarnation. And of course there are more specific doctrines about the Koran, about the prophet Muhammad, etc., that are essential to the faith of Muslims.
Now suppose I point out that Muslims deny that Jesus is the son of God. You reply that your Muslim friend Ali accepts that Jesus is the son of God. Then I commit no fallacy if I retort that Ali is no true Muslim.
After a long and leisurely breakfast this morning with Peter Lupu, Mike Valle, and Richard Klaus, I stopped by Bookman's and got lucky. I found a used copy of Milton Steinberg's 1939 novel, As a Driven Leaf. The title is from Job 13: 24-25: "Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face. . . Wilt thou harass a driven leaf?" I learned about this novel from Joseph Epstein's recent WSJ piece, Balancing Faith and Reason.
And then I got lucky in the CD aisle, stumbling upon the soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis. I listened to it on the drive home with raindrops on the windshield and tears in my eyes. Here are some tunes from it:
Brian Kennedy, A Passion to Oppose: John Anderson, Philosopher, Melbourne University Press, 1995, p. 141:
Melbourne intellectuals came to regard [John] Anderson 'as the man who had betrayed the Left, a man who had gone over to the other side. Melburnians wanted Anderson to answer a simple question: was he or was he not interested in the fact that some were very rich and some were very poor?' To this question Anderson replied that 'we are all bothered by different things. That finished him with the Melburnians'. [Kennedy quotes Manning Clark, The Quest for Grace, Melbourne, 1991, p. 193]
"We are all bothered by different things." And even when we are bothered by the same things, we prioritize the objects of botherment differently. Now suppose you and I are bothered by exactly the same things in exactly the same order. There is still room for disagreement and possibly even bitter contention: we are bothered to different degrees by the things that bother us.
"It angers me that that doesn't anger you!" "It angers me that you are insufficiently angered by what angers both of us."
Here then is one root of political disagreement. It is a deep root, perhaps ineradicable. And it is a root of other sorts of disagreement as well. We are bothered by different things.
Are conservatives bothered by gun violence? Yes, of course. But they are bothered more by the violation of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Liberals, even if they are slightly bothered by the violation of these rights, assuming they admit them in the first place, are much more bothered by gun violence. Now there are factual questions here concerning which agreement is in principle possible, though exceedingly unlikely. For example there is the question whether more guns in the hands of citizens leads to less crime. That is a factual question, but one that is not going to be resolved to the satisfaction of all. Conservatives and liberals disagree about the facts. Each side sees the other as having its own 'facts.'
But deeper than facts lie values. Here the problem becomes truly intractable. We are bothered by different things because we differ about values and their ordering. Conservatives and presumably most liberals value self-reliance but conservatives locate it much higher up in the axiological hierarchy. This probably explains why liberals are more inclined to rely on professional law enforcement for protection against the criminal element even while they bash cops as a bunch of racists eager to hunt down and murder "unarmed black teenagers" such as Michael Brown of Ferguson fame.
As for what finished Anderson with the Melburnians, he was apparently not sufficiently exercised by (material) inequality for the tastes of the latter despite his being a man of the Left, though not reliably so due to his iconoclasm.
Does it bother conservatives that there is wealth inequality? To some extent. But for a(n American) conservative liberty trumps equality in the scale of values. With liberals it is the other way around. Liberals of course cherish their brand of rights and liberties and will go to absurd extremes in defending them even when the right to free expression, a big deal with them, spills over into incitement to violence and includes the pollution of the culture with pornography. Of course, this extremism in defense of free expression bangs up against the liberals' own self-imposed limit of political correctness. The trashers of Christianity suddenly become chickenshits when it comes to the trashing of Islam. That takes more courage than they command. And they are easily cowed by events such as the recent terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Liberals are also absurdly eager to spread the right to vote even at the expense of making the polling places safe for voter fraud. How else do you explain their mindless opposition to photo ID? But not a peep from liberals about 'real' liberties and rights such as gun rights, the right to private property, and the right to freedom from excessive and punitive taxation.
Is material inequality a problem? Not as such. Why should it be?
As I recall John Rawls' Difference Principle, the gist of it is this: Social and economic inequality is justified ONLY IF the inequality makes the worse off better than they would have been without the inequality. Why exactly? If I'm smarter than you, work harder, practice the ancient virtues, avoid the vices, while you are a slacker and a screw-up who nevertheless has what he needs, why is my having more justified ONLY IF it makes you better off than you would have been without the inequality? (Yes, I know all about the Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance, but I don't consider that an argument.)
At the root of our difference are value differences and those, at bottom, are irreconcilable.
"A senior Islamic cleric in Ireland has issued a warning against reproducing Charlie Hebdo's front page depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, after the massacre of journalists and police at the magazine's offices." (HT: Karl White)
From 1789 on, a defining characteristic of the Left has been hostility to religion, especially in its institutionalized forms. This goes together with a commitment to such Enlightenment values as individual liberty, belief in reason, and equality, including equality among the races and between the sexes. Thus the last thing one would expect from the Left is an alignment with militant Islam given the latter’s philosophically unsophisticated religiosity bordering on rank superstition, its totalitarian moralism, and its opposition to gender equality.
So why is the radical Left soft on militant Islam? The values of the progressive creed are antithetic to those of the Islamists, and it is quite clear that if the Islamists got everything they wanted, namely, the imposition of Islamic law on the entire world, our dear progressives would soon find themselves headless. I don’t imagine that they long to live under Sharia, where ‘getting stoned’ would have more than metaphorical meaning. So what explains this bizarre alignment?
1. One point of similarity between radical leftists and Islamists is that both are totalitarians. As David Horowitz writes in Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (Regnery, 2004) , "Both movements are totalitarian in their desire to extend the revolutionary law into the sphere of private life, and both are exacting in the justice they administer and the loyalty they demand." (p. 124)
2. Horowitz points to another similarity when he writes, "The radical Islamist believes that by conquering nations and instituting sharia, he can redeem the world for Allah. The socialist’s faith is in using state power and violent means to eliminate private property and thereby usher in the millenium." (129)
Perhaps we could say that the utopianism of the Left is a quasi-religion with a sort of secular eschatology. The leftist dreams of an eschaton ushered in by human effort alone, a millenial state that could be described as pie-in-the-future as opposed to pie-in-the-sky. When this millenial state is achieved, religion in its traditional form will disappear. Its narcotic satisfactions will no longer be in demand. Religion is the "sigh of the oppressed creature," (Marx) a sigh that arises within a contingent socioeconomic arrangement that can be overturned. When it is overturned, religion will disappear.
3. This allows us to explain why the secular radical does not take seriously the religious pathology of radical Islam. "The secular radical believes that religion itself is merely an expression of real-world misery, for which capitalist property is ultimately responsible." (129) The overthrow of capitalist America will eliminate the need for religion. This "will liberate Islamic fanatics from the need to be Islamic and fanatic." (130)
Building on Horowitz’s point, I would say the leftist in his naïveté fails to grasp that religion, however we finally resolve the question of its validity or lack thereof, is deeply rooted in human nature. As Schopenhauer points out, man is a metaphysical animal, and religion is one expression of the metaphysical urge. Every temple, church, and mosque is evidence of man's being an animal metaphysicum. As such, religion is not a merely contingent expression of a contingent misery produced by a contingent state of society. On the contrary, as grounded in human nature, religion answers to a misery, sense of abandonment, and need for meaning essential to the human predicament as such, a predicament the amelioration of which cannot be brought about by any merely human effort, whether individual or collective. Whether or not religion can deliver what it promises, it answers to real and ineradicable human needs for meaning and purpose, needs that only a utopian could imagine being satisfied in a state of society brought about by human effort alone.
In their dangerous naïveté, leftists thinks that they can use radical Islam to help destroy the capitalist USA, and, once that is accomplished, radical Islam will ‘wither away.’ But they will ‘wither away’ before Islamo-fanaticism does. They think they can use genuine fascist theocracy to defeat the ‘fascist theocracy’ of the USA. They are deluding themselves.
Residing in their utopian Wolkenskukuheim -- a wonderful word I found in Schopenhauer translatable as 'Cloud Cuckoo Land' -- radical leftists are wrong about religion, wrong about human nature, wrong about the terrorist threat, wrong about the ‘fascist theocracy’ of conservatives, wrong about economics; in short, they are wrong about reality.
Leftists are delusional reality-deniers. Now that they are in our government, we are in grave danger. I sincerely hope that people do not need a 'nuclear event' to wake them up. Political Correctness can get you killed.
There is a sleazy singer who calls herself 'Madonna.' That moniker is offensive to many. But we in the West are tolerant, perhaps excessively so, and we tolerate the singer, her name, and her antics. Muslims need to understand the premium we place on toleration if they want to live among us.
A San Juan Capistrano councilman named his dog 'Muhammad' and mentioned the fact in public. Certain Muslim groups took offense and demanded an apology. The councilman should stand firm. One owes no apology to the hypersensitive and inappropriately sensitive. We must exercise our free speech rights if we want to keep them. Use 'em or lose 'em.
The notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one. So if some Muslims are offended by some guy's naming his dog 'Muhammad,' their being offended is not something we should validate. Their being offended is their problem.
Am I saying that we should act in ways that we know are offensive to others? Of course not. We should be kind to our fellow mortals whenever possible. But sometimes principles are at stake and they must be defended. Truth and principle trump feelings. Free speech is one such principle. I exercised it when I wrote that the notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one.
Some will be offended by that. I say their being offended is their problem. What I said is true. They are free to explain why dogs are 'unclean' and I wish them the best of luck. But equally, I am free to label them fools.
With some people being conciliatory is a mistake. They interpret your conciliation and willingness to compromise as weakness. These people need to be opposed vigorously. For the councilman to apologize would be foolish.
London Ed sends his thoughts on language and reality. My comments are in blue.
Still mulling over the relation between language and reality. Train of thought below. I tried to convert it to an aporetic polyad, but failed. The tension is between the idea that propositions are (1) mind-dependent and (2) have parts and so (3) have parts that are mind-dependent. Yet (if direct reference is true) some of the parts (namely the parts corresponding to genuinely singular terms) cannot be mind-dependent.
How about this aporetic hexad:
1. Propositions are mind-dependent entities. 2. Atomic (molecular) propositions are composed of sub-propositional (propositional) parts. 3. If propositions are mind-dependent, then so are its parts. 4. In the case of genuine singular terms (paradigm examples of which are pure indexicals), reference is direct and not mediated by sense. 5. If reference is direct, then the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum so that a proposition expressed by the tokening of a sentence containing the singular referring term (e.g, the sentence 'I am hungry') has the denotatum itself as a constituent. 6. In typical cases, the denotatum is a mind-independent item.
Note that (3) is not an instance of the Fallacy of Division since (3) is not a telescoped argument but merely a conditional statement. London Ed, however, may have succumbed to the fallacy above. Or maybe not.
Our aporetic hexad is a nice little puzzle since each limb is plausible even apart from the arguments that can be given for each of them.
And yet the limbs of this hexad cannot all be true. Consider the proposition BV expresses when he utters, thoughtfully and sincerely, a token of 'I am hungry' or 'Ich bin hungrig.' By (4) in conjunction with (5), BV himself, all 190 lbs of him, is a proper part of the proposition. By (6), BV is mind-independent. But by (1) & (2) & (3), BV is not mind-independent. Contradiction.
Which limb should we reject? We could reject (1). One way would be by maintaining that propositions are abstract (non-spatiotemporal) mind-independent objects (the Frege line). A second way is by maintaining that propositions are concrete (non-abstract) mind-independent objects (the Russell line). Both of these solutions are deeply problematic, however.
Or we could reject (3) and hold that propositions are mental constructions out of mind-independent elements. Not promising!
Or we could reject (4) and hold that reference is always sense-mediated. Not promising either. What on earth or in heaven is the sense that BV expresses when BV utters 'I'? BV has no idea. He may have an haecceity but he cannot grasp it! So what good is it for purposes of reference? BV does not pick himself out via a sense that his uses of 'I' have, that his uses alone have, and that no other uses could have. His haecceity, if he has one, is ineffable.
So pick your poison.
By the way, I have just illustrated the utility of the aporetic style. Whereas what Ed says above is somewhat mushy, what I have said is razor-sharp. All of the cards are on the table and you can see what they are. We seem to agree that there is a genuine problem here.
There is spoken and written language, and language has composition with varying degrees of granularity. Written language has books, chapters, paragraphs, sentences and words. The sentence is an important unit, which is used to express true and false statements. [The declarative sentence, leastways.]
Spoken and written language has meaning. Meaning is also compositional, and mirrors the composition of the language at least at the level of the sentence and above. There is no complete agreement about compositionality below the level of the sentence. E.g. Aristotelian logic analyses 'every man is mortal' differently from modern predicate logic. [Well, there is agreement that there is compositionality of meaning; but not what the parsing ought to be.]
The meaning of a sentence is sometimes called a 'proposition' or a 'statement'. [Yes, except that 'statement' picks out either a speech act or the product of a speech act, not the meaning (Fregean Sinn) of a sentence. Frege thought, bizarrely, that sentences have referents in addition to sense, and that these referents are the truth-values.]
There are also thoughts. It is generally agreed that the structure of the thought mirrors the structure of the proposition. The difference is that the thought is a mental item, and private, whereas the proposition is publicly accessible, and so can be used for communication. [It is true that acts of thinking are private: you have yours and I have mine. But it doesn't follow that the thought is private. We can think the same thought, e.g., that Sharia is incompatible with the values of the English. You are blurring or eliding the distinction between act and accusative.]
There is also reality. When a sentence expresses a true proposition, we say it corresponds to reality. Otherwise it corresponds to nothing. So there are three things: language, propositions, reality. The problem is to explain the relation between them. [This is basically right. But you shouldnt say that a sentence expresses a proposition; you should say that a person, using a declarative sentence, in a definite context, expresses a proposition. For example, the perfectly grammatical English sentence 'I am here now' expresses no proposition until (i) the contextual features have been fixed, which (ii) is accomplished by some person's producing in speech or writing or whatever a token of the sentence.]
In particular, what is it that language signifies or means? Is it the proposition? Or the reality? If the latter, we have the problem of explaining propositions that are false. Nothing in reality corresponds to 'the moon is made of green cheese'. So if the meaning of that sentence, i.e. the proposition it expresses, exists at all, then it cannot exist in mind-independent reality. [This is a non sequitur. It can exist in mind-independent reality if it is a Fregean proposition! But you are right that if I say that the Moon is made of green cheese I am talking about the natural satellite of Earth and not about some abstract object.]
But if a false proposition suddenly becomes true, e.g. "Al is thin" after Al goes on a diet, and if when false it did not correspond to anything in external reality, how can it become identical with the reality? And we say that such a proposition was false, but is now true, i.e. the same thing that was false, is true. But if the reality is identical with the proposition that is now true, and if the same proposition was once false, it follows that the proposition, whether true or false, is not identical with anything in external reality. [One issue here is whether a proposition can change its truth-value. Suppose we say that a sentence like 'Al is fat' is elliptical for 'Al is fat on Jan 1, 2015.' The latter sentence expresses a Fregean proposition whose TV does not change. Fregean propositions are context-free: free of indexical elements including tenses of verbs. And who ever said that correspondence is identity?]
It follows that the relation between language and reality is indirect, i.e. always mediated by a proposition. A sentence, to be meaningful at all, signifies or expresses a proposition, and a relation between the proposition and reality exists if the proposition is true, but not when the proposition is false. [I'll buy that.]
But what sort of thing is a proposition? It is a publicly available object, i.e. available to the common mind, not a single mind only, but not part of external mind-independent reality either. [You are asking a key question: What is a proposition? It is a bitch for sure. But look: both Fregean and Russellian propositions are parts of external mind-independent reality. Do you think those gentlemen were completely out to lunch? Can you refute them? Will you maintain that propositions are intentional objects?]
We also have the problem of singular propositions, i.e. propositions expressed by sentences with an unquantified subject, e.g. a proper name. It is generally agreed that the composition of singular sentences mirrors the structure of the corresponding proposition. In particular the singular subject in language has a corresponding item in the proposition. Thus the proposition expressed by 'Socrates is bald' contains an item exactly corresponding to the word 'Socrates'.
But if propositions are always separate from external reality, i.e. if the propositional item corresponding to 'Socrates' is not identical with Socrates himself, what is it? [You could say that it is a Fregean sense. But this is problematic indeed for reasons I already alluded to anent haecceity.]
Russell's answer was that singular sentences, where the subject is apparently unquantified, really express quantified propositions. If so, this easily explains how the proposition contains no components identical with some component of reality. [Right.]
But it is now generally agreed that Russell was wrong about proper name sentences. Proper names are not descriptions in disguise, and so proper name propositions are not quantified. So there is some propositional item corresponding to the linguistic item 'Socrates'. [And that item is Socrates himself! And that is very hard to swallow.]
But if the proper name is not descriptive, it seems to follow that the singular proposition cannot correspond to anything mental, either to a single mind or the group mind. Therefore it must be something non-mental, perhaps Socrates himself. [Or rather, as some maintain, the ordered pair consisting of Socrates and the property of being bald. You see the problem but you are not formulating it precisely enough. When I think the thought: Socrates is bald, I cannot possibly have S. himself before my mind. My mind is finite whereas he is infintely propertied.]
This means that sentences containing empty names cannot be meaningful, i.e. cannot express propositions capable of truth or falsity. [I think so.]
This is counter-intuitive. It is intuitively true that the sentence "Frodo is a hobbit" expresses or means something, and that the meaning is composed of parts corresponding to 'Frodo' and 'is a hobbit'. But the part corresponding to 'Frodo' cannot correspond to or signify anything in external reality, i.e. mind-independent reality. [Yes]
So what does 'Frodo' mean? [You could try an 'asymmetrical' theory: in the case of true singular sentences, the proposition expressed is Russellian, while in the case of false singular sentences the proposition expressed is Fregean. Of course that is hopeless.]
. . . the gratuitous groveling we do to allay the sensitivities of violence-prone Muslims (because who else are we attempting to placate?) has become a cringe-worthy aspect of American policy long before Barack Obama ever showed up. When the Bush administration, in the middle of the Danish carton controversy, claimed that “Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images or any other religious belief,” it was equally wrong. As far as the state goes, they’re all “acceptable.”
But only one of those can put you on kill lists.
After the deadly terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, France, it’s worth remembering that there is no amount of conciliating rhetoric that will stop attacks on our liberal values – even undermining them. Which is something we’ve done.
Remember Molly Norris whose name appears on the above poster? I wrote about her on 16 September 2010:
Cartoonist Molly Norris Driven into Hiding by Muslim Extremism
Among the great religions of the world, where 'great' is to be taken descriptively not normatively, Islam appears uniquely intolerant and violent. Or are there contemporary examples of Confucians, Taoists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or Christians who, basing themselves on their doctrines, publically issue and carry out credible death threats against those who mock the exemplars of their faiths? For example, has any Christian, speaking as a Christian, publically put out a credible murder contract on Andres Serrano for his despicable "Piss-Christ"? By 'credible,' I mean one that would force its target, if he were rational, to go into hiding and erase his identity?
UPDATE 9/19/2010. Commentary by James Taranto here.
Reading John Anderson has enhanced my sense of the centrality of the question of levels of reality for those of us who view philosophy as a quest for the Absolute and a project of self-transformation. Of course it was more or less obvious to me all along, Plato's Allegory of the Cave being the richest depiction we have of the two-world theme.
Essential to religion is the belief that there is what William James calls an "unseen order" (Varieties of Religious Experience, 53), a higher order, above or behind the phenomenal order of time and change, doubt and confusion, mendacity and evil.
The unseen order is to be affirmed without the phenomenal order being denied. So there are two levels of reality. How exactly they are related is the problem, or one problem. We will pursue the problem in due course in connection with John Passmore's discussion of the "Two-Worlds Argument" in his Philosophical Reasoning.
Memory loss points to the materiality of mind while memory's exercise points to its immateriality. Mind is mysterious, but memorial mind is even more so, situated as it is at the crossroads of intentionality and time.
John Anderson's rejection of God is radical indeed. A. J. Baker writes:
Anderson, of course, upholds atheism, though that is a rather narrow and negative way of describing his position given its sweep in rejecting all rationalist conceptions of essences and ontological contrasts in favour of the view that whatever exists is a natural occurrence on the same level of existence as anything else that exists. From that position it follows, not merely that the traditional 'proofs' of the existence of God can be criticised, but that the very conception of a God or a supernatural way of being is an illogical conception -- God is an ontological category mistake as we may say. (Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson, Cambridge UP, 1986, 118-119)
If someone said that the average thought has such-and-such a volume, you would not say that he was factually incorrect; you would say that he had committed a category mistake inasmuch as a thought is not the sort of item that could have a volume: it is categorially disbarred from having a volume. Someone who says that God exists is saying that there exists something whose mode of being is unique to it and that everything other than God has a different mode of being. But the idea that there are two or more modes of being or two or more levels of reality, according to Anderson, is 'illogical" and ruled out by the exigencies of rational discourse itself. To posit God, then, is to involve oneself in a sort of ontological category mistake, in the words of A. J. Baker.
Let's see if we can understand this. (This series of entries is booked under Anderson, John.)
The Andersonian thesis is an exceedingly strong one: the very concept of God is said to be illogical. It is illogical because it presupposes the notion, itself illogical, that there are levels of reality or modes of existence or ways of being. What makes the argument so interesting is the implied claim that the very nature of being rules out the existence of God. So if we just understand what being is we will see that God cannot exist! This is in total opposition to the tack I take in A Paradigm Theory of Existence (Kluwer 2002) wherein I argued from the nature of existence to (something like) God, and to the tack taken by those who argue from truth to God.
The Andersonian argument seems to be as follows:
1. There is a single way of being.
2. The single way of being is spatiotemporal or natural being.
3. If God exists, then his way of being is not spatiotemporal or natural.
4. God does not exist.
Note that the argument extends to any absolute such as the One of Plotinus or the Absolute of F. H. Bradley or the Paradigm Existent of your humble correspondent. Indeed, it extends to any non-spatiotemporal entity.
The crucial premise is (1). For if 'way of being' so much as makes sense, then surely (3) is true. And anyone who accepts (1) ought also to accept (2) given that it is evident to the senses that there are spatiotemporal items. So the soundness of the argument pivots on (1). But what is the argument for (1)?
Note that (1) presupposes that 'way of being' makes sense. This is not obvious. To explain this I first disambiguate 'There are no ways of being.' Someone who claims that there are no ways of being could mean either
A. There are no ways of being because there is a single way of being.
B. There are no ways of being because the very idea of a way of being, whether one or many, either makes no sense or rests on some fallacious reasoning: either a thing exists or it does not. There is no way it exists. We can distinguish between nature (essence) and existence but not among nature, existence and way of existence. What is said to belong to the way a thing exists really belongs on the side of its nature. A drastic difference such as that between a rock and a number does not justify talk of spatiotemporal and non-spatiotemporal ways of being: the drastic difference is just a difference in their respective natures.
Many philosophers have championed something like (B). (See Reinhard Grossmann Against Modes of Being. Van Inwagen, too, takes something like the (B)-line.) If (B) is true, then Anderson's argument collapses before it begins. But I reject (B). So I can't dismiss the argument in this way.
Anderson's view is (A). The problem is not with the concept of a way of being; the problem is with the idea that there is more than one way of being. This is clear from his 1929 "The Non-Existence of Consciousness," reprinted in Studies in Empirical Philosophy, wherein we read, "If theory is to be possible, then, we must be realists; and that involves us in . . . the assertion of a single way of being (as contrasted with 'being ultimately' and 'being relatively') [a way of being] which the many things that we thus recognise have." (SEP 76) Thus what Anderson opposes is a duality, and indeed every plurality, of ways of being, and not the very notion of a way of being. One could say that Anderson is a monist when it comes to ways of being, not a pluralist. To invoke a distinction made by John Passmore, one to be discussed in a later entry, Anderson is an existence-monist but not an entity-monist.
Now what's the argument for (1)? As far as I can tell the argument is something like this:
5. Truth is what is conveyed by the copula 'is' in a (true) proposition.
6. There is no alternative to 'being' or 'not being': a proposition can only be true or false.
7. There are are no degrees or kinds of truth: no proposition is truer than any other, and there are no different ways of being true. (5, 6)
8. (True) propositions are concrete facts or spatiotemporal situations: propositions are not intermediary entities between the mental and the extramental. They are not merely intentional items, nor are they Fregean senses. The proposition that the cat is on the mat just is the concrete fact of the cat's being on the mat. And the same goes for the cat: the cat is identical to a proposition. Anderson's student, Armstrong, holds that a thick particular such as a cat is a proposition-like entity, a state of affairs; but Anderson holds the more radical view that a cat is not merely proposition-like, but is itself a proposition. But if a cat is a proposition, then
9. Being (existence) = truth.
1. There is a single way of being. (from 7, 9)
Therefore, by the first argument above,
4. God does not exist.
A full critique is beyond the scope of this entry especially since brevity is the soul of blog, as some wit once said. But what I am about to say is, I think, sufficient to refute the Andersonian argument.
If everything exists in the same way, what way is that? Anderson wants to say: the spatiotemporal way. He is committed to the proposition that
A. To be is to be spatiotemporally
where this is to be construed as an identification of being/existence with spatiotemporality. Good classical metaphysician that he is, Anderson is telling us that the very Being of beings, das Sein des Seienden, is their being spatiotemporal.
Now there is a big problem with this. A little thought should convince you that (A) fails as an indentification even if it succeeds as an equivalence: one cannot reduce being/existence to spatiotemporality. For one thing, (A) is circular. It amounts to saying that to exist is to exist in space and time. Now even if everything that exists exists in space and time, the existence of that which exists cannot be identified with being in space and time. So even if (A) is true construed as telling us what exists, it cannot be true construed as telling us what existence is. A second point is that, while it is necessary that a rock be spatiotemporal, there is no necessity that a rock exist, whence it follows that the existence of a rock cannot be identified with its being spatiotemporal.
Now if (A) fails as an identification, it might still be true contingently as an equivalence. It might just happen to be the case that, for all x, x exists iff x is spatiotemporal. But then it cannot be inscribed in the nature of Being (as a Continental philosopher might say) that whatever is is in space and time. Nor can it be dictated by "the nature and possibility of discourse" (SEP 2) or by the possibility of "theory" (SEP 76). Consequently, the Andersonian battle cry "There is only a single way of being!" cannot be used to exclude God.
For any such exclusion of God as an "ontological category mistake" can only proceed from the exigencies of Being itself. What Anderson wants to say is that the very nature of Being logically requires the nonexistence of God. But that idea rests on the confusion exposed above. For his point to go through, he needs (A) to be an identification when at most it is an equivalence.
The quality of 'elite' publications such as The New Yorker leaves a lot to be desired these days. Adam Gopnik's recent outburst on Newtown is one more example of a downward trend: it is so breathtakingly bad that I am tempted to snark: "I can't breathe!" Could Gopnik really be as willfully stupid as the author of this piece? Or perhaps he was drunk when he posted his screed one minute after midnight on January 1st.
Again I ask myself: why is the quality of conservative commentary so vastly superior to the stuff on the Left?
A tip of the hat and a Happy New Year! to Malcolm Pollack from whom I snagged the above hyperlinks. Malcolm is a very good writer as you can see from this paragraph:
The New Yorker‘s essayist Adam Gopnik — whom I have always considered to be quite lavishly talented, despite his dainty and epicene style — beclowned himself one minute into this New Year with a stupendously mawkish item on gun control. It is so bad, in fact — so completely barren of fact, rational argument, or indeed any serious intellectual effort whatsoever — that I was startled, and frankly saddened, to see it in print. It is the cognitive equivalent, if one can imagine such a thing hoisted into Mr. Gopnik’s rarefied belletrist milieu, of yelling “BOSTON SUCKS” at a Yankees-Red Sox game, at a time when Boston leads the division by eleven games.
Leftists like to call themselves 'progressives.' We can't begrudge them their self-appellation any more than we can begrudge the Randians their calling themselves 'objectivists.' Every person and every movement has the right to portray himself or itself favorably and self-servingly. "We are objective in our approach, unlike you mystics."
But if you are progressive, why are you stuck in the past when it comes to race? Progress has been made in this area; why do you deny the progress that has been made? Why do you hanker after the old days?
It is a bit of a paradox: 'progressives' -- to acquiesce for the nonce in the use of this self-serving moniker -- routinely accuse conservatives of wanting to 'turn back the clock,' on a number of issues such as abortion. But they do precisely that themselves on the question of race relations. They apparently yearn for the bad old Jim Crow days of the 1950s and '60s when they had truth and right on their side and the conservatives of those days were either wrong or silent or simply uncaring. Those great civil rights battles were fought and they were won, in no small measure due to the help of whites including whites such as Charlton Heston whom the Left later vilified. (In this video clip Heston speaks out for civil rights.) Necessary reforms were made. But then things changed and the civil rights movement became a hustle to be exploited for fame and profit and power by the likes of the race-baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Read almost any race screed at The Nation and similar lefty sites and you wil find endless references to slavery and lynchings and Jim Crow as if these things are still with us. You will read how Trayvon Martin is a latter-day Emmett Till et cetera ad nauseam.
For a race-hustler like Jesse Jackson, It Is Always Selma Again. Brothers Jesse and Al and Co. are stuck inside of Selma with the Oxford blues again.
In case you missed the allusions, it is to Bob Dylan's 1962 Freewheelin' Bob Dylan track, "Oxford Town" and his 1966 Blonde on Blonde track, "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."
Wake up you 'progressive' Rip van Winkles! It is not 1965 any more.
I now hand off to Rich Lowry who comments on the movie Selma.
This is a revision of an entry originally posted on 11 February 2010.
Ernst Bloch, like Theodor Adorno, is a leftie worth reading. But here are two passages replete with grotesque exaggeration and plain falsehood. Later, perhaps, I will cite something from Bloch that I approve of. The offensive passages are from the essay, "Karl Marx, Death, and the Apocalypse" in Man on His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (Herder and Herder, 1970, p. 32. The translation is by E. B Ashton):
. . . the law as a whole, and the greater part of the criminal law as well, is simply an instrument by which the ruling classes maintain the legal standards that protect their interests . . . If there were no property, there would be no law and no need for its sharp-edged though hollow categories.
No property, no need for law? That is plainly and inexcusably false. Obviously, not all crimes are crimes against property; there are also crimes against persons: rape, assault, battery, murder. Even if the State owned all the cars, there would still be drunk driving. And so on. So even without private property, there would still be the need for laws.
Laws reasonable and just are the positive expressions of (some of) what we believe to morally permissible, impermissible, and obligatory. As along as there is a gap between what people do and what they ought to do and leave undone -- that is, as long as people exist -- there will be need for positive law, the law posited or enacted by legislatures. And since laws are useless unless enforced, there is need of agencies of enforcement, which are state functions.
But of course the very notion that a society in which no one owned anything would be desirable is ludicrous as well. Private property is the foundation of individual liberty. When the State owns everything and I own nothing, then concretely speaking my liberty is nonexistent. But of course, Bloch, leftist utopian that he is, thinks that the State will wither away:
Though for a time it may continue to function in a bolshevist form, as a necessary transitional evil, in any socialist perspective a true conception of the State demands its withering away -- its transformation into an international regulator of production and consumption, an immense apparatus set up to control inessentials and no longer containing, or capable of attracting, anything of import. (p. 33)
Sorry, Ernst, but this is just nonsense. The State cannot both "wither away" and be tranformed into an "immense apparatus" that regulates production and consumption. But even apart from this incoherence, no State powerful enough to establish socialism -- which of course requires the forcible redistribution of wealth -- is going to surrender one iota of its power, no matter what socialists "demand." Power always seeks its own consolidation, perpetuation, and expansion. That is one thing that Nietzsche got right.
This brings us to the fundamental contradiction of socialism. Since forcible equalization of wealth will be resisted by those who possess it and feel entitled to their possession of it, a revolutionary vanguard will be needed to impose the equalization. But this vanguard cannot have power equal to the power of those upon whom it imposes its will: the power of the vanguard must far outstrip the power of those to be socialized. So right at the outset of the new society an inequality of power is instituted to bring about an equality of wealth -- in contradiction to the socialist demand for equality. The upshot is that no equality is attained, neither of wealth nor of power. The apparatchiks end up with both, and their subjects end up far worse off than they would have ended up in a free and competitive society. And once the apparatchiks get a taste of the good life with their luxury apartments in Moscow and their dachas on the Black Sea, they will not want to give it up.
The USSR withered away all right, but not in approved Marxist fashion: it just collapsed under the weight of its own evil and incompetence -- with some helpful kicks from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.
Albert Camus, one of the luminaries of French existentialism, died on this day in 1960, in a car crash. Not tragically, straining hubristically against limits, but absurdly, a passenger in a recklessly-piloted vehicle. "In his coat pocket was an unused train ticket. He had planned to travel by train with his wife and children, but at the last minute he accepted his publisher's proposal to travel with him." (Wikipedia)
John Williams' 1965 novel Stoner with its overcast feel proved to be a perfect read for a deep and dark December. An underappreciated and unfortunately titled masterpiece, it is about one William Stoner, an obscure professor of English at the University of Missouri, Columbia. At its publication in '65 it pretty much fell still-born from the press, but the years have been kind to it and it is now valued as the great novel that it is. Unfortunately, Williams, who died in 1994, did not live to see its success.
(4.) John Williams, Stoner (1965). Based on the life of J. V. Cunningham and especially his disastrous marriage to Barbara Gibbs. Easily the best novel ever written about the determined renunciations and quiet joys of the scholarly life. Stoner suffers reversal after reversal—a bad marriage, persecution at the hands of his department chair, the forced breakup of a brief and fulfilling love affair with a younger scholar—but he endures because of two things: his love for his daughter, who wants nothing more than to spend time with her father while he writes his scholarship, and his work on the English Renaissance. His end is tragic, but Stoner does not experience it that way. A genuinely unforgettable reading experience.
"Genuinely unforgettable" sounds like hype, but this is one novel I, for one, will not forget. For more by Myers on Stoner, see here.
My copy of the novel sports a blurb by Myers: "It will remind you of why you started reading novels: to get inside the mystery of other people's lives." Yes.
What is the difference between the philosopher and the novelist? Perhaps this: the philosopher tries but fails to articulate the Impersonal Ineffable; the novelist tries but fails to articulate the Personal Ineffable, the 'inside' of a person's life, the felt quality of it. In both cases, there is the attempt to speak the Unspeakable.
Two very different uses of language and thought in a reach for what is Unreachable by those routes. And perhaps by any route.
Put that it in your pipe, John Anderson. And smoke it.
Communists are not against religion. We are against capitalism.
A communist who is not against religion would be like a Catholic who is not against atheism or a teetotaler who is not against drinking alcoholic beverages.
What we have here is further proof that truth is not a leftist value.
Leftists, like Islamists, feel justified in engaging in any form of mendacity so long as it promotes their agenda. And of course the agenda, the list of what is to be done (to cop a line from V.I. Lenin), is of paramount importance since, as Karl Marx himself wrote, "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." (11th Thesis on Feuerbach). The glorious end justifies the shabby means.
As for Islamists, their doctrine in support of deception is called taqiyya.
Islamism is the communism of the 21st century.
You should not take at face value anything any contemporary liberal says. Always assume they are lying and then look into it. Obama, of course, is the poster boy for the endlessly repeated big brazen lie. It is right out of the commie playbook. "If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan."
Hypocrites are those who will not practice what they preach. They espouse high standards of behavior -- which is of course good -- but they make little or no attempt to live in accordance with them. Hypocrisy is rightly considered to be a moral defect. But what are we to say about those people who will not preach what they practice? For want of a better term, I will call them hypocrites in reverse.
Suppose a person manifests in his behavior such virtues as honesty, frugality, willingness to take responsibility for his actions, ability to defer gratification, respect for others, self-control, and the like, but refuses to advocate or promote these virtues even though their practice has led to the person's success and well-being. Such a person is perhaps not as bad, morally speaking, as a hypocrite but evinces nonetheless a low-level moral defect akin to a lack of gratitude to the conditions of his own success.
These hypocrites-in-reverse owe much to the old virtues and to having been brought up in a climate where they were honored and instilled; but they won't do their share in promoting them. They will not preach what they themselves practice. And in some cases, they will preach against, or otherwise undermine, what they themselves practice.
The hypocrite will not honor in deeds what he honors in words. The reverse hypocrite will not honor in words what he honors in deeds.
I am thinking of certain liberals who have gotten where they are in life by the practice of the old-time virtues, some of which I just mentioned, but who never, or infrequently, promote the very virtues whose practice is responsible for their success. It is almost as if they are embarrassed by them. What's worse, of course, is the advocacy by some of these liberals of policies that positively undermine the practice of the traditional virtues. Think of welfare programs that militate against self-reliance or reward bad behavior or of tax policies that penalize such virtuous activities as saving and investing.
I began the year right with a two-hour ramble right out my front door over the local hills. Very cold temps ramped up the usual saunter to a serious march. I always go light: short pants, T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, bandanna, light cotton gloves. Rain that turned to snow overnight gave Superstition Mountain a serious dusting.
And I always take a notebook and a pen in case I get a really good idea. Haven't had one yet, but you never know.
Walking in the wild, alone, is a pleasure to keep one sound in body and mind. "Really to see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever." (Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle.)
Why are Italians and Americans of Italian extraction 'over-represented' -- to use, sarcastically, an ambiguous word whose very ambiguity endears it to the politically correct -- among the fiscally responsible? Ten reasons.
Sadly, two highly-valued male friends of mine, one a philosopher who does not hike and the other a hiker who does not philosophize, are either clueless or inattentive when it comes to personal finance, like most Americans. Why do they lack basic common sense about matters monetary?
Do I enjoy a species of 'white privilege,' namely, 'Italian privilege?'
This night in 1985 was Rick Nelson's last: the Travelin' Man died in a plane crash. Wikipedia:
Nelson dreaded flying but refused to travel by bus. In May 1985, he decided he needed a private plane and leased a luxurious, fourteen-seat, 1944 Douglas DC-3 that had once belonged to the DuPont family and later to Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane had been plagued by a history of mechanical problems. In one incident, the band was forced to push the plane off the runway after an engine blew, and in another incident, a malfunctioning magneto prevented Nelson from participating in the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois.
On December 26, 1985, Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the Southern United States. Following shows in Orlando, Florida, and Guntersville, Alabama, Nelson and band members took off from Guntersville for a New Year's Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The plane crash-landed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas, less than two miles from a landing strip, at approximately 5:14 p.m. CST on December 31, 1985, hitting trees as it came to earth. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: Nelson and his companion, Helen Blair; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward, drummer Rick Intveld, keyboardist Andy Chapin, guitarist Bobby Neal, and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell. Pilots Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank escaped via cockpit windows, though Ferguson was severely burned.
A. J. Baker on John Anderson: ". . . there are no ultimates in Anderson's view and in line with Heraclitus he maintains that things are constantly changing, and also infinitely complex . . . ." (Australian Realism, Cambridge UP, 1986, p. 29, emphasis added)
Change is a given. From the earliest times sensitive souls have been puzzled and indeed aggrieved by it. "I am grieved by the transitoriness of things," Nietzsche complains in a letter to Franz Overbeck. But are things constantly changing? And what could that mean?
We need to ask four different questions. Does everything change? Do the things that change always change? Do the things that always change continuously change? Do the things that change change in every respect?
1. Does everything change? The first point to be made, and I believe the Andersonians would agree, is that it is not obviously true that everything changes, or true at all. There are plenty of putative counterexamples. Arguably, the truths of logic and mathematics are not subject to change. They are not subject to change either in their existence or in their truth-value. There is no danger that the theorem of Pythagoras will change from true to false tomorrow. If you say that the theorem in question is true only in Euclidean geometry, then I invite you to consider the proposition expressed by 'The theorem of Pythagoras is true only in Euclidean geometry.' Is the truth of this proposition, if true, subject to change?
Here is an even better example. Consider the proposition P expressed by ‘Everything changes.’ P is either true or false. If P is true, then both P and its truth-value change, which is a curiously self-defeating result: surely, those who preach that all is impermanent intend to say something about the invariant structure of the world and/or our experience of the world. Their intention is not to say that all is impermanent now, but if you just wait long enough some permanent things will emerge later. Clearly, P is intended by its adherents as changelessly true, as laying bare one of the essential marks of all that exists. But then P’s truth entails its own falsity. On the other hand, if P is false, then it is false. Therefore, necessarily, P is false. It follows that the negation of P is necessarily true. Hence it is necessarily true that some things do not change. The structure of the (samsaric) world does not change. The world is 'fluxed up,' no doubt about it; but not that 'fluxed up.'
2. Do the things that change always change? I take ‘always’ to mean ‘at every time.’ Clearly, not everything subject to change is changing at every time. The number of planets in our solar system, for example, though subject to change, is obviously not changing at every time. The position of my chair, to take a second example, is subject to change but is obviously not changing at every time.
3. Do the things that change continuously change? To say that a change is continuous is to say that between any two states in the process of change, there are infinitely many – indeed, continuum-many – intermediate states. To say that a change is discrete, however, is to say that there are some distinct states in the process of change such that there are no intermediate states between them. Now although some changes are continuous, such as the change in position of a planet orbiting the sun, not all changes are continuous. If I lose a tooth or an eye, that is a discrete change, not a continuous one. To go from having two eyes to one, is not to pass through intermediate states in which I have neither two nor one. A switch is off, then on. Although a continuous process may be involved in the transition, the change in switch status -- 0 or 1 -- is discrete, not continuous.
Hence it cannot be true that each thing that changes continuously changes.
4. Do the things that change change in every respect? No; consider the erosion of a mountainside. Erosion of a mountainside is a change that is occurring at every time, and presumably continuously; but there are properties in respect of which the mountainside cannot change if there is to be the change called erosion, for instance, the property of being a mountainside. Without something that remains the same, there cannot be change. There cannot be erosion unless something erodes. Alterational change requires a substrate of change which, because it is the substrate of change, precisely does not change. There is no alterational change without unchange. Hence if change is all-pervasive, in the sense that every aspect of a thing changes when a change occurs in the thing, then there is no change. Compare Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Princeton University Press, 1941), p. 277.
In sum, I have given reasons to believe that (i) some things are unchangeable; (ii) among the things that are changeable, some are merely subject to change and not always changing; (iii) among the things that are always changing, only some are continuously changing; and (iv) there is no (alterational as opposed to existential) change without unchange.
Therefore, those who lay great stress on the impermanence of the world and our experience of it need to balance their assertion by proper attention to the modes of permanence. For example, if we are told that everything is subject to change, does not the very sense of this assertion require that there be something that does not change, namely the ontological structure of (samsaric) entities? And if a thing is changing, how could that be the case if no aspect of the thing is unchanging? Furthermore, how could one become attached to something that was always changing? Attachment presupposes relative stability in the object of attachment. Jack is attached to Jill because her curvacity and cheerfulness, say, are relatively unchanging features of her. If she were nothing but change 'all the way down,' then there would be nothing for Jack's desire to get a grip on. But without desire and attachment, no suffering, and no need for a technology of release from suffering.
It is a mistake to think that change is all-pervasive. So those who maintain that all is impermanent need to tell us exactly what they mean by this and how they arrived at it. Is it not onesided and unphilosophical to focus on impermanence while ignoring permanence?
If all being is pure becoming, then there is no being -- and no becoming either.
Getting back to Anderson, if his claim is that things are constantly changing, what does that mean? Does it mean that everything that changes changes always, or continuously, or in every respect, or all three?
The semi-annual Twilight Zone marathon starts New Year's Eve morning and runs for two days on the SyFy Channel.
My eyes glued to the set, my wife invariably asks, "Haven't you seen that episode before?" She doesn't get it. I've seen 'em all numerous times each. Hell, I've been watching 'em since 1959 when the series first aired. But the best are inexhaustibly rich in content, delightful in execution, studded with young actors and actresses who went on to become famous alongside the now forgotten actors of yesteryear, with their period costumes and lingo, making allusions to the politics of the day. Timeless and yet a nostalgia trip. A fine way to end one year and begin another.
Too hip to moralize, Rod Serling was nevertheless a moralist whose 30-minute morality tales, the best of them anyway, set a standard unsurpassed to this day.
To see how much philosophical juice can be squeezed out of one of these episodes, see here.
Ed sends his best wishes from London in the form of a quotation from The Philosopher:
"Since the 'now' is an end and a beginning of time, not of the same time however, but the end of that which is past and the beginning of that which is to come, it follows that, as the circle has its convexity and its concavity, in a sense, in the same thing, so time is always at a beginning and at an end". (Physics book IV 222 a28)
Our friend Mike provides us with an accurate overview of this pernicious Weltanshauung and rightly points out that it is by no means dead but (as I would put it) enjoys a healthy afterlife in those leftist seminaries called universities, but not only there:
I am convinced that ML [Marxism-Leninism] is alive and well in spite of the death of the Soviet Union. It has assumed new forms, discarded some ideas, taken some new ones on, but its spirit is healthy. Its spirit is essentially a collectivist one that does the following: It affirms that Man is infinitely malleable rather than limited by his nature, it denigrates individualism for the sake of collectivism, it de-emphasizes personal responsibility by making our behavior depend on things outside of our control, it relatives truth and morality by making them functions of group membership, it corrodes liberty for the sake of equality of results, it advocates the silencing of political opponents, and it is virulently anti-American (and anti-Israel, for that matter).
Many characteristics of ML are present in vibrant abundance among a large number of political movements, particularly its hatred of capitalism and its emphasis on ‘imperialism.’ These political movements include the environmentalist movement, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the sustainability movement, the social justice movement, the social equity movement, the discipline of Sociology, nearly any academic discipline with the word “Studies” in it, and so on and on. ‘Political Correctness’ is a phrase that we rightfully use disparagingly to refer to any number of aggressively Leftist movements and tendencies that threaten the value of liberty.
Or, as I like to say, PC comes from the CP. Valle goes on to ask why Marxist-Leninist ideas retain their appeal and concludes with four important truths:
You may well reject my path, but what is most important is that you do not abandon these four beliefs: There is objective truth, there is an objective morality to which you are bound, human freedom is real, and we must all be held personally morally accountable for our actions. These four beliefs will inoculate anyone against the twin poisons of collectivism and postmodernism.
There is little philosophical 'meat' here, but it is useful for contextualizing the man and his thought.
I stumbled upon this while searching without success for something comparing John Anderson with Ayn Rand. They are fruitfully comparable in various respects. Both were cantankerous and dogmatic and not open to having their ideas criticized or further developed by their acolytes; both founded highly influential cults; both were atheists and naturalists; both had curious and old-fashioned notions in logic; both were controversialists; both resided on the outskirts of academic respectability.
The last point of comparison merits some exfoliation and qualification. Anderson was surely a much better philosopher than Rand: unlike Rand, he was trained in philosophy; he held academic posts, mainly at the Unversity of Sydney whose intellectual life he dominated for many years; he read and wrote for the professional journals engaging to some degree with fellow professional philosophers. But the majority of his strictly philosophical publications were confined to the Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy and its successor the Australasian Journal of Philosophy. Also noteworthy is that, with the exception of a few epigoni, his ideas are not discussed.
One such epigone is A. J. Baker who has written a very useful but uncritical and not very penetrating study, Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson, Cambridge UP, 1986. He rightly complains in a footnote on p. 62:
D. M. Armstrong, who in his Universals and Scientific Realism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1978, gives an account of many types of theories, curiously dedicates the book to Anderson and yet does not discuss or even describe Anderson's theory on the subject.
I'm on a John Anderson jag at the moment and I'm having a blast. (Whatever else you say about philosophy it is a marvellous and marvellously reliable source of deep pleasure, at least to those to whom she has revealed herself and who have become her life-long acolytes.) Anderson (1893-1962) is a fascinating character both as a man and as a philosopher. More importantly, if he is right, I am wrong. For I am committed to modes of being both by these pages and by my published writings, chiefly, my 2002 book on existence. Central to Anderson's position, however, is that there are no levels of reality or modes of being. So intellectual honesty requires that I see if I can meet the Andersonian challenge. My first Anderson entry is here. Read that for some background.
Here is an Anderson-type argument against a Berkeley-type position.
Suppose it is maintained that there are two different modes of being or existence. There is, first, the being of perceptual objects such as the tree in the quad. For such things, esse est percipi, to be = to be perceived. And of course perceivedness is not monadic but relational: to be perceived is to be perceived by someone or by something that does the perceiving. These perceivers or knowers exist too, but in a different mode. For their being cannot be identified with their being perceived. Clearly, not everything can be such that its being is its being perceived. Such a supposition is scotched by the vicious infinite regress it would ignite. For if the being of God were his being perceived, then there would have to be something apart from God that pereceived him. And so on infinitely and viciously. So if the being of some items is perceivedness, then there must be at least two modes of being.
But of course knower and known stand in relation to each other. So the Andersonian begins his critique by asking about the concrete situation in which I know a tree, or God knows a tree. (Cf. A. J. Baker, Australian Realism, Cambridge UP, 1986, p. 26) What mode of being does this situation have? Does this situation or state of affairs exist by being perceived or by perceiving? Neither. The fact that I see a tree exists. But the existence of this fact is not its being perceived. The existence of the fact it not its perceiving either. The fact exists in neither way. It has neither mode of being. Therefore, the Andersonian concludes, the dualism of two modes of being breaks down. There is only one mode of being, that of situations. As A. J. Baker puts it, "that situation and its ingredients all have 'being' of the same single kind." (26)
The above argument is a non sequitur. It goes like this:
1. There is the relational fact of my seeing a tree.
2. The being of this fact is not its being perceived.
3. The being of this fact is not perceiving.
4. There are not two modes of being, the being of objects of perception and the being of subjects of perception.
5. There is only one mode of being, that of facts or situations.
Both inferences are non sequiturs.
To get to the desired conclusion one needs the premises of the following argument, premises that are far from self-evident:
6. The smallest unit of existence is the situation (state of affairs, concrete fact).
7. Nothing exists except as a constituent of a situation.
8. Situations are not represented by true propositions; they are true propositions.
9. Existence = truth.
10. There are neither degrees nor modes of truth.
11. There are neither degrees nor modes of existence.
12. Knowers and things known exist in the same way.
What is the quester after? What does he seek? He doesn't quite know, and that is part of his being a romantic. He experiences his present 'reality' as flat, stale, jejune, oppressive, substandard. He feels there must be more to life than work-a-day routines and social objectifications, the piling up of loot, getting ahead, "competitive finite selfhood" in a fine phrase of A. E. Taylor's. He wants intensity of experience, abundance of life, even while being unclear as to what these are. He casts a negative eye on the status quo, the older generation, his parents and family, and their quiet desperation. He scorns security and its living death.
Christopher J. McCandless was a good example, he whose story was skillfully recounted by Jon Krakauer in Into the Wild. In McCandless' case, the scorn for security, his fleeing a living death, led to a dying death. In an excess of self-reliance he crossed the Teklanika, not realizing it was his Rubicon and that its crossing would deposit him on the Far Shore.
He's baaack, bearing 'gifts.' Professor Christian Munthe has the story:
Remember The September Statement from earlier this year, signed by 648 academic philosophers in North America and elsewhere against Chicago philosopher and law professor Brian Leiter's unacceptable treatment of his UBC colleague Carrie Ichikawa-Jenkins, ending in Leiter's statement of resignation from the institutional ranking operation he had founded and coordinated up till then, the Philosophical Gourmet Report? If not, a recapture of some of the essential of this sad and disgraceful story is here (start at the bottom to get the adequate chronology). This detailed chronological account is also rewarding.
One would have thought that after this, Brian Leiter would prefer to lay dead and lick his wounds for a while, waiting for the memory of the scandal and his own disgrace to settle, and maybe find new pathways to having himself feel good about himself besides bullying and threatening (apparently mostly female) academic colleagues for one of the other, more or less fathomable, reason found by him to justify such behaviour. Maybe do something meriting a minimal portion of admiration and respect from academic colleagues, perhaps?
Not so at all.
As revealed on Christmas eve by Jonathan Ichikawa-Jenkins, Carrie's husband, Leiter has recently had a Canadian lawyer send a letter to them both, threatening with a defamation lawsuit unless they publicly post a "proposed statement" of apology to Leiter, with the specifically nasty ingredient of a specific threat that such a suit would imply " “a full airing of the issues and the cause or causes of [Carrie’s] medical condition;”. Moreover, the letter asks the Ichikawa-Jenkins to apologise not only for the personal declaration of professional ethos that made no mention of Brian Leiter whatsoever but that for some reason – to me still incomprehensible as long as a deeply suppressed guilty conscience or outright pathology is not pondered – to to be an attack on his person, but also for the actions of other people, such as this post at the Feminist Philosophers blog, and The September Statement itself – implying obviously that all the signatories to that statement would be in the crosshairs of professor Leiter. The full letter of the lawyer setting out these threats is here. The (expected) response from the Ichikawa-Jenkins' lawyer is here, stating the simple and obvious claim that all that's been publicly communicated on this matter – such as making public bullying emails of Leiter – is protected by normal statutes of freedom of speech.
Both animal and thinker, he faces two sorts of threats. Among the first, hardening of the arteries. Among the second, hardening of the categories. Which is worse depends on your categories. Either way, categories rule.
I have been, and will continue, discussing Trinity and Incarnation objectively, that is, in an objectifying manner. Now what do I mean by that? Well, with respect to the Trinity, the central conundrum, to put it in a very crude and quick way is this: How can three things be one thing? With respect to the Incarnation, how can the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal and impassible Logos, be identical to a particular mortal man? These puzzles get us thinking about identity and difference and set us hunting for analogies and models from the domain of ordinary experience. We seek intelligibility by an objective route. We ought to consider that this objectifying approach might be wrongheaded and that we ought to examine a mystical and subjective approach, a 'Platonic' approach as opposed to an 'Aristotelian' one. See my earlier quotation of Heinrich Heine. A marvellous quotation.
1. The essence of Christianity is contained in the distinct but related doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Josef Pieper (Belief and Faith, p. 103) cites the following passages from the doctor angelicus: Duo nobis credenda proponuntur: scil. occultum Divinitatis . . . et mysterium humanitatis Christi. II, II, 1, 8. Fides nostra in duobus principaliter consistit: primo quidem in vera Dei cognitione . . . ; secundo in mysterio incarnationis Christi. II, II, 174, 6.
2. The doctrine of the Trinity spelled out in the Athanasian Creed, is that there is one God in three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each person is God, and yet there is exactly one God, despite the fact that the Persons are numerically distinct from one another. According to the doctrine of the Incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, the Son or Logos, became man in Jesus of Nazareth. There is a strong temptation to think of the doctrinal statements as recording (putative) objective facts and then to wonder how they are possible. I have touched upon some of the logical problems the objective approach encounters in previous posts. The logical problems are thorny indeed and seem to require for their solution questionable logical innovations such as the notion (championed by Peter Geach) that identity is sortal-relative, or an equally dubious mysterianism which leaves us incapable of saying just what we would be accepting were we to accept the theological propositions in question. The reader should review those problems in order to understand the motivation of what follows.
3. But it may be that the objective approach is radically mistaken. Is it an objective fact that God (or rather the second person of the Trinity) is identical to a particular man in the way it is an objective fact that the morning star is identical to the planet Venus?
Perhaps we need to explore a subjective approach. One such is the mystical approach illustrated in a surprising and presumably 'heretical' passage from St. John of the Cross' The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Collected Works, p. 149, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, emphasis added):
. . . when a person has finished purifying and voiding himself of all forms and apprehensible images, he will abide in this pure and simple light, and be perfectly transformed into it. This light is never lacking to the soul, but because of creature forms and veils weighing upon and covering it, the light is never infused. If a person will eliminate these impediments and veils, and live in pure nakedness and poverty of spirit . . . his soul in its simplicity and purity will then be immediately transformed into simple and pure Wisdom, the Son of God.
The Son of God, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, is 'born,' 'enters the world,' is 'incarnated,' in the soul of any man who attains the mystic vision of the divine light. This is the plain meaning of the passage. The problem, of course, is to reconcile this mystical subjectivism with the doctrinal objectivism according to which the Logos literally became man, uniquely, in Jesus of Nazareth when a certain baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
4. A somewhat less mystical but also subjective approach is suggested by an analogy that Josef Pieper offers in Belief and Faith, p. 89. I will explore his analogy in my own way. Suppose I sincerely and thoughtfully say 'I love you' to a person who is open and responsive to my address. Saying this, I do not report an objective fact which subsists independently of my verbal avowal and the beloved's reception of the avowal. There may be objective facts in the vicinity, but the I-Thou relation is not an objective fact antecedent to the address and the response. It is a personal relation of subjectivity to subjectivity. The reality of the I-Thou relation is brought about by the sincere verbal avowal and its sincere reception. The lover's speaking is a self-witnessing and "the witnessed subject matter is given reality solely by having been spoken in such a manner." (Pieper, p. 89) The speaking is a doing, a performance, a self-revelation that first establishes the love relationship.
5. The Incarnation is the primary instance of God's self-revelation to us. God reveals himself to us in the life and words of Jesus -- but only to those who are open to and accept his words and example. That God reveals himself (whether in Jesus' life and words or in the mystic's consciousness here and now) is not an objective fact independent of a free addressing and a free responding. It depends on a free communicating and a free receiving of a communication just as in the case of the lover avowing his love to the beloved. God speaks to man as lover to beloved. In the case of the Incarnation, God speaks to man though the man Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God spoken to man, which Word subsists only in the free reception of the divine communication. Thus it is not that a flesh and blood man is identical to a fleshless and bloodless person of the Trinity -- a putative identity that is hard to square with the discernibility of the identity relations' relata -- it is that God's Word to us is embodied in the life and teaching of a man when this life and teaching are apprehended and received as a divine communication. The Incarnation, as the prime instance of divine revelation, is doubly subjective in that subject speaks to subject, and that only in this speaking and hearing is the Incarnation realized.
6. Incarnation is not an objective fact or process by which one thing, the eternal Logos, becomes identical to a second thing, a certain man. Looked at in this objectivizing way, the logical difficulties become insuperable. Incarnation is perhaps better thought of as the prime instance of revelation, where revelation is, as Aquinas says at Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 154, "accomplished by means of a certain interior and intelligible light, elevating the mind to the perception of things that the understanding cannot reach by its natural light." Revelation, so conceived, is not an objective fact. Incarnation is a mode of revelation. Ergo, the Incarnation is not an objective fact.
7. This is admittedly somewhat murky. More needs to be said about the exact sense of 'subjective' and 'objective.'