This is an outstanding five-minute video by Peter Kreeft of Boston College. (HT: J. I. Odegaard) It presents the theistic worldview and its naturalistic alternative about as clearly as is possible within a few minutes. It doesn't argue for or against, but it does present the benefits of theism.
It is in the Prager U series.
As the universities of the land, including so-called Catholic universities, abdicate their authority and collapse under the weight of their own political correctness, substituting trendy nonsense and decadent junk for genuine learning, we need to build alternative centers to carry on the great traditions.
There is some discussion of Kreeft in the entries referenced infra.
London Karl, an Irish resident of London, checks in with this update:
I'm just back from my first ever trip to America. Only New York, which I am reliably informed is representative of nothing other than itself, but I was touched and impressed by the civility and friendliness I encountered. People there are way friendlier than the Brits. You may despair over your country, but you have that at least!
This is funny. New Yorkers are generally regarded as rude and obnoxious. Donald Trump, for example, is a New Yorker, as is Brian Leiter. No, I am not hastily generalizing from two examples, I am illustrating with two examples an antecedently established general proposition.
It is too bad that London Karl did not have the time or the wherewithal to travel deep into Real America where he would have found much better examples of civility and friendliness.
Some years back I read a paper at Tulane University in New Orleans. Wandering around one afternoon on my own, not in the French Quarter, but in some rather nondescript part of town, I walked into a restaurant for lunch. There I was greeted by a woman who displayed a level of hospitality and friendliness and warmth I had never encountered before. This, I thought to myself, is what must be meant by Southern hospitality. There was, of course, a commercial motivation behind the display; but it was also deeply genuine. That was back in '87 and I have never forgotten the experience.
During that same trip, however, I ran into chess master Jude Acers in the French Quarter. Stationed on the street in his red beret, he plays (or played) all comers at $5 a game. Nothing particularly civil or friendly about him, rather the opposite. But then he is a chess player, one, and not from the South, two. After five games, I paid him his $25 and he made sure that I understood that he had played me for a chump and 'taken me' for 25 semolians. Me, I was happy to part with the money for chess lessons on Bourbon Street in the romantic city of the great Paul Morphy.
He said one thing that has stuck with me. Near the end of a game, he pointed to one of his pawns which had an unobstructed path to the queening square. I couldn't stop it, but it still had a long way to go. He announced, "This pawn has already queened."
A deeply Platonic comment. A timeless use of 'already.' Sub specie aeternitatis, the pawn had queened, or rather IS (timelessly) queened.
"Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)
UPDATE. London Karl responds:
Trust me, I had the desire and the wherewithal to go into the real America; I just didn't have the time. I preferred the edgy friendliness of the New Yorkers to the passive aggression that passes for English 'politeness'.
Everybody profiles. Liberals are no exception. Liberals reveal their prejudices by where they live, shop, send their kids to school, and with whom they associate.
The word 'prejudice' needs analysis.
It could refer to blind prejudice: unreasoning, reflexive (as opposed to reflective) aversion to what is other just because it is other, or to an unreasoning pro-attitude toward the familiar just because it is familiar. We should all condemn blind prejudice. It is execrable to hate a person just because he is of a different color, for example. No doubt, but how many people do that? How many people who are averse to blacks are averse because of their skin color as opposed to their behavior patterns? Racial prejudice is not, in the main, prejudice based on skin color, but on behavior.
'Prejudice' could also mean 'prejudgment.' Although blind prejudice is bad, prejudgment is generally good. We cannot begin our cognitive lives anew at every instant. We rely upon the 'sedimentation' of past experience. Changing the metaphor, we can think of prejudgments as distillations from experience. The first time I 'serve' my cats whisky they are curious. After that, they cannot be tempted to come near a shot glass of Jim Beam. They distill from their unpleasant olfactory experiences a well-grounded prejudice against the products of the distillery.
My prejudgments about rattlesnakes are in place and have been for a long time. I don't need to learn about them afresh at each new encounter with one. I do not treat each new one encountered as a 'unique individual,' whatever that might mean. Prejudgments are not blind, but experience-based, and they are mostly true. The adult mind is not a tabula rasa. What experience has written, she retains, and that's all to the good.
So there is good prejudice and there is bad prejudice. The teenager thinks his father prejudiced in the bad sense when he warns the son not to go into certain parts of town after dark. Later the son learns that the old man was not such a bigot after all: the father's prejudice was not blind but had a fundamentum in re. The old man was justified in his prejudgment.
But if you stay away from certain parts of town are you not 'discriminating' against them? Well of course, but not all discrimination is bad. Everybody discriminates. Liberals are especially discriminating. The typical Scottsdale liberal would not be caught dead supping in some of the Apache Junction dives I have been found in. Liberals discriminate in all sorts of ways. That's why Scottsdale is Scottsdale and not Apache Junction.
Is the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' as marriage discriminatory? Of course! But not all discrimination is bad. Indeed, some is morally obligatory. We discriminate against felons when we disallow their possession of firearms. Will you argue against that on the ground that it is discriminatory? If not, then you cannot cogently argue against the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' on the ground that it is discriminatory. You need a better argument. And what would that be?
'Profiling,' like 'prejudice' and 'discrimination,' has come to acquire a wholly negative connotation. Unjustly. What's wrong with profiling? We all do it, and we are justified in doing it. Consider criminal profiling.
It is obvious that only certain kinds of people commit certain kinds of crimes. Suppose a rape has occurred at the corner of Fifth and Vermouth. Two males are moving away from the crime scene. One, the slower moving of the two, is a Jewish gentleman, 80 years of age, with a chess set under one arm and a copy of Maimonides'Guide for the Perplexed under the other. The other fellow, a vigorous twenty-year-old, is running from the scene.
Who is more likely to have committed the rape? If you can't answer this question, then you lack common sense. But just to spell it out for you liberals: octogenarians are not known for their sexual prowess: the geezer is lucky if he can get it up for a two-minute romp with a very cooperative partner. Add chess playing and an interest in Maimonides and you have one harmless dude.
Or let's say you are walking down a street in Mesa, Arizona. On one side of the street you spy some fresh-faced Mormon youths, dressed in their 1950s attire, looking like little Romneys, exiting a Bible studies class. On the other side of the street, Hells (no apostrophe!) Angels are coming out of their club house. Which side of the street would you feel safer on? On which side will your concealed semi-auto .45 be more likely to see some use?
The problem is not so much that liberals are stupid, as that they have allowed themselves to be stupefied by that cognitive aberration known as political correctness.
Their brains are addled by the equality fetish: everybody is equal, they think, in every way. So the vigorous 20-year-old is not more likely than the old man to have committed the rape. The Mormon and the Hells Angel are equally law-abiding. And the twenty-something Egyptian Muslim is no more likely to be a terrorist than the Mormon matron from Salt Lake City.
Clearly, what we need are more profiling, more prejudgment, and more discrimination (in the good sense). And fewer liberals.
A note on the above image. Suppose all you know about the two individuals is what you see. The point is that the likelihood of the old white lady's being a terrorist is much, much less than the likelihood of the man's being a terrorist. This is what justifies profiling and why it is insane to subject both individuals to the same level of scrutiny. For that would be to assume something obviously false, namely, that both individuals are equally likely to be terrorists.
Again we face the question why liberals are so preternaturally stupid. And again, the answer is that they have enstupidated themselves with their political correctness and their fetishization of equality.
With all the mindless hyperventilation of dumb-assed liberals over gun control in the wake of Orlando, we need some comic relief. Herewith, a repost from 27 February 2013.
What the hell's going on in Florida? The other day an oven shot a woman, and now a dog has shot a man, with an 'unloaded' gun no less. Tragedies like these show the need for Dog Control. Members of the Dog Lobby such as Duane LaRufus of the National Hound Association will scream in protest, but moral cretins like him and Leroy Pooch of Dog Owners of America are nothing but greedy shills for the Canine Industrial Complex. They routinely oppose all sensible Dog Control measures. Follow the money!
Reason dictates that all dogs must be kept muzzled at all times, and when transported in a vehicle containing a gun, must be kept securely locked in the trunk. Assault dogs, whose only purpose is to kill and maim, such as Doberman Ass Biters and Pit Bulls, must be banned. Such breeds are inherently evil and no one outside of law enforcement and the military has any business owning them. Food magazines for all breeds must be kept strictly limited lest any dog become too rambunctious. Dog owners should be 'outed' and their names published in the paper. Special taxes must be levied on all things canine to offset the expenses incurred by society at large in the wake of the rising tide of dog violence.
Such reasonable measures will strike extremists as draconian, but if even one life can be saved, then they are justified. We must do something and we must do it now so that tragedies like the one in Florida never happen again.
Passionate presentation does not add to the cogency of one's arguments. But neither does it detract. One's audience, however, will likely mistake the presence of passion for the absence of reason. So the best policy in most circumstances is to present one's arguments in an emotionally neutral way. Or at least that used to be the best policy. In this age of the short attention span things may be different.
So we come back to the concept of Sharia, which you rightly mentioned in one of your posts. This is really the thing where Islam stands out from other religions, the idea that religious belief should be the basis of law. Here I found Islamic Law: The Sharia from Muhammad's Time to the Present (Hunt Janin, André Kahlmeyer) useful. The concept of Sharia is essential to Islamic belief. See Sura 33:35—36. Islam means ‘submission’: the primary duty of human beings is to submit totally to the will of God. The sharia shows the faithful how this submission should be put into practice in daily life.
[The sharia] does not grow out of, and is not moulded by, society as is the case with Western systems. Human thought, unaided, cannot discern the true values and standards of conduct; such knowledge can only he attained through divine revelation, and acts are good or evil exclusively because God has attributed this quality to them. In the Islamic concept, law precedes and moulds society; to its eternally valid dictates the structure of State and society must, ideally, conform.
Notwithstanding the great outpouring of books and articles which have appeared in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Islamic world is still not understood in the West today. The sharia is, beyond any question, one of the most important concepts of Islam, but most non-Muslims know almost nothing about it.
I wholly endorse the foregoing as an understanding of Islam. Islam is a hybrid ideology: both a religion and a political system. Sharia, or Islamic law, is essential to it. Coming from God, it cannot be questioned by man: man must submit to it. The primary meaning of 'Islam' is submission. God's law must be imposed on all and woven into the fabric of everyday life. There is no provision in Islam for mosque-state separation. But that is to put it in the form of an understatement. Islam positively rules out mosque-state separation.
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 (old-time) 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 implies that the government shall not impose any religion upon the people as the state religion.
This raises a very serious question. Is Islam -- pure, unEnlightened, un-watered-down, 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?
The USA is a Christian 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?
Obviously not! Sharia is essential to true Islam. But Sharia is subversive of our system of government. So we are under no obligation from the Constitution to tolerate Sharia-based Islam. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. This implies that Muslims who do not renounce Sharia should not be eligible for positions in the government.
"But this violates Article VI of the Constitution!" No it doesn't. There we read that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." But this cannot possibly be interpreted in such a way as to allow into the government elements subversive of the system of government the Constitution defines.
Why is Islam incompatible with the West? It is because Islam violates the separation of the religious and secular spheres. But why should they be kept apart? One reason is that we in the West have come to realize over the centuries that no one can legitimately claim to know the answers to the Big Questions about God, the soul, the purpose of human existence, the nature of the good, and so on. Only if one were absolutely certain of the answers to these questions would one be justified in imposing them via state power on everyone and forcing everyone to live in accordance with them. If we know that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that God has condemned sodomy, and sanctioned the killing of sodomites, then we would perhaps be justified in outlawing sodomy and punishing it by death as it is indeed punished in some ten Muslim countries.
But surely no one of us KNOWS that God exists, let alone that God has revealed himself to man, let alone in a particular book or set of books, let alone inerrantly. Not knowing these things we have a good reason to tolerate homosexual and heterosexual sodomites, subject to certain restrictions, e.g. 'between consenting adults,' etc. We have reason to allow such behavior as legally permissible even if it in fact morally impermissible. For again, even if sodomy is is in fact morally impermissible because condemned by God , no one can legitimately claim to KNOW that it is.
On this date in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death as atomic spies for the Soviet Union. They were most certainly guilty as we now know. But no amount of proof of their guilt will stop the Left from lying about them as victims of American 'fascism.' In those days we weren't the decadent weaklings we have become, unsure of ourselves, and unwilling to defend our nation against deadly threats.
Why, for example, is Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, still alive? He committed his crimes to the cry of Allahu akbar in 2009, was sentenced to death in 2013, but is still alive. Why hasn't he been executed? Why the endless appeals?
We need a judicial fast track to execution for convicted terrorists.
We have lost our way. We now longer believe in ourselves. We have elected and re-elected a hate-America leftist fool who actually had the temerity to refer to Hasan's terror as "work place violence." And it is a good bet that he will be elected for a third term in the guise of Hillary Milhous Clinton.
Briefly stated, moral narcissism is this: What you say you believe or claim you believe — not how you actually behave — defines who you are and makes you “virtuous” in your own eyes and the eyes of others. Almost always, this is without regard to the consequences of those beliefs, because actual real-world results are immaterial and often ignored.
If you have the right opinions and say the right things, people will remember your pronouncements, not your actions or what happened because of them.
That is moral narcissism.
We see this in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, a moral narcissist par excellence who, rarely revising a half-century-old worldview, trumpets the virtues of socialism with scant reference to the cost of its programs or to its often-totalitarian outcome.
I would add that moral narcissism fits nicely with the denial of objective truth, one of the features of contemporary liberalism. If there is no objective way things are, then all that matters is how one postures and what one says. If you say the 'right' things, the politically correct things, the 'sensitive,' 'nonjudgmental,' 'inclusive,' things, then you are good person whether or not any of it can be expected to work out in reality.
For example, it sounds really good and 'caring' to say that the state should provide free college educations at public institutions for all and to call for an expansion of social services generally. And its sounds 'racist' and 'xenophobic' and 'mean-spirited' to insist on the stoppage of illegal immigration. But put the two together, freebies and open borders,and you get an objective absurdity that cannot work out in reality.
Not to confront this contradiction shows a lack of concern for truth.
Obviously, a sustainable welfare state requires strict immigration control. Or, if you prefer open borders, then you need a libertarian clamp-down on entitilements and social services. One or the other. Reality places us before this exclusive 'or.'
Sanders the socialist thinks he can have it both ways: a massive welfare state with open borders. That is objectively unworkable. Reality will not allow it. But if there is no reality and no objective truth, then no problem! One can say all the right things and posture as virtuous.
And when disaster occurs, you can always plead your good intentions.
The three defining features of modern liberalism are an intense aversion to the Constitution, a denial of objective truth, and a penchant for intentionally abusing the English language with an aim to mislead the public. No issue exemplifies these three features better than the “debate” about the AR-15 and “assault weapons.”
Well said, my man, well said, with pith and punch.
I pity the poor activist for whom the real is exhausted by the political. But I detest these totalitarians as well since they seek to elide the boundary between the private and the public.
We need to battle them in the very sphere they think exhausts the real. But it is and must be a part-time fight, lest we become like them. Most of life for us conservatives must be given over to the enjoyment and appreciation, in private, of the apolitical: nature, for example, and nature's God.
An obfuscatory leftist phrase. And therefore used by Obama the Mendacious. Why obfuscatory? Because it elides an important distinction between those terrorists who are truly homegrown such as Timothy McVeigh and those who, while born in the USA, such as Omar Mateen, derive their 'inspiration' from foreign sources. Mateen's terrorism comes from his understanding of what Islam requires, namely, the liquidation of homosexuals. There is nothing homegrown about Islam. This in stark contrast to the American sources of McVeigh's terrorism.
It is perfectly obvious why liberals and leftists use 'homegrown terrorist' in application to the likes of Mateen: they want to deflect attention from the real problem, which is radical Islam.
With respect to the third entry, a young man with an overly literal mind wrote to inform me that while my Heidegger quotation was from 1935, Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, did not see the light of day until 1942. So how could Heidegger be commenting on Ali?
In this sort of literary trope what one does is take contemporary individuals such as Marcos and Ali as tokens so representative of their types as to count as types. The quoted commentary is then to be read as directed against the type. Since the type is relatively timeless, the anachronism is innocuous. What is true of the type is true of every token thereof, whether past, present, or future.
The worth of my trope, like the worth of many, is its contribution to concreteness. Imelda Marcos as opposed to a shoe fetishist. Cassius Clay as opposed to a prize fighter.
Now here is my question: Is there any accepted name for this literary trope, can we subsume it under an extant trope, or should we coin a name and add it to the list of tropes?
I wrote recently, "Fear not, I shall not report on the state of my bowels, which is excellent, nor pull a Trump and crow about the efficacy of my schlong."
The sentence illustrates the literary trope called apophasis. Wikipedia:
Apophasis is a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer brings up a subject by either denying it, or denying that it should be brought up.Accordingly, it can be seen as a rhetorical relative of irony.
The device is also called paralipsis (παράλειψις) – also spelled paraleipsis or paralepsis – or occupatio, and known also as praeteritio,preterition, antiphrasis (ἀντίφρασις), or parasiopesis (παρασιώπησις).
The body is to everyone the measure of the possessions proper for it, as the foot is of the shoe. If, therefore, you stop at this, you will keep the measure; but if you move beyond it, you must necessarily be carried forward, as down a precipice; as in the case of a shoe, if you go beyond its fitness to the foot, it comes first to be gilded, then purple, and then studded with jewels. For to that which once exceeds a due measure, there is no bound.
A London philosopher sends the following along which I take to be a quotation from Jasbir Puar:
One, I examine discourses of queerness where problematic conceptualizations of queer corporealities, especially via Muslim sexualities, are reproduced in the service of discourses of U.S. exceptionalisms. Two, I rearticulate a terrorist body, in this case the suicide bomber, as a queer assemblage that resists queerness as sexual identity (or anti-identity)—in other words, intersectional and identitarian paradigms—in favor of spatial, temporal, and corporeal convergences, implosions, and rearrangements. Queerness as an assemblage moves away from excavation work, deprivileges a binary opposition between queer and not-queer subjects, and, instead of retaining queerness exclusively as dissenting, resistant, and alternative (all of which queerness importantly is and does), it underscores contingency and complicity with dominant formations.
The London friend then comments:
Bill, to me this reads like a parody of Continental Philosophy. What are ‘corporealities’? ‘Identitarian’? ‘Deprivileges a binary opposition’?? What other kinds of opposition are there?
Sartre has a lot to answer for.
A lot of recent Continental 'philosophy' is gibberish, and the above passage reads almost like a parody of it. So my London friend and I agree that the above is rubbish, and as such, beneath critique. How would one even begin to criticize writing like this?
What is Puar trying to tell us in the first sentence? Continentals are big on verbal inflation. So Puar can't just write bodies, she must write corporealities. It sounds impressive to the unlettered. She wants to give the impression that she is engaging is some really deep theorizing here. Referring to a body as a corporeality is like referring to a method as a methodology or a truth as a verity.
It makes some sense to say that the bodies of homosexuals have been "problematically conceptualized," to use another pretentious phrase. To supply my own politically incorrect example, you would be 'problematically conceptualizing' the dick of a homosexual male if you maintained that it was but a social construct. But for a body to be problematically conceptualized via Muslim sexualities makes no sense at all. Is she trying to say that the bodies of homosexuals have been dubiously understood or perhaps wrongly understood by Muslims? But then how do sexualities come into it?
Puar has a thing for the plurals of abstract substantives: corporealities, sexualities, exceptionalisms. But we are only half-way through her meaningless opening sentence. We are told that dubious theories about homosexual bodies somehow support U. S. exceptionalisms. Who would have thought? What does it even mean?
It only gets worse, so enough of this.
Now if this junk were merely the scribblings of some crackpot on her personal blog, we could ignore it. But she is an associate professor at Rutgers University. File this under Decline of the West.
As for Jean-Paul Sartre, I would say say that my insular friend is not being quite fair. A lot of important work has been done by Continental philosophers up to an including the Sartre of Being and Nothingness. (I confess to not having studied Critique of Dialectical Reason.) Here is a list of (some) Continental philosophers who are well-worth close study: Franz Brentano, Alexius von Meinong, Kasimir Twardowski, Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, Roman Ingarden, Max Scheler, Martin Heidegger, Nicolai Hartmann, Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus.
I would point out to my London correspondent, who is interested in medieval philosophy and logic, that Paul Vincent Spade, no slouch of a scholar, has a lively interest in the early Sartre. See here.
So I don't think too much can be laid at Sartre's door step. The rot sets in in good earnest later with characters like Derrida who, according to John Searle, "gives bullshit a bad name."
John D. Caputo is another Continental 'philosopher' that I criticize in a number of entries. He is not as bad as Puar, however. But he is very bad!
From the 1980s to the present. Some lists are 'static,' some 'dynamic.' The Ten Commandments is static whereas the list of Islamist outrages is unfortunately dynamic, highly dynamic.
Exercise for the reader. Compile a list of Christian terror attacks from the 1980s to the present and compare its length to that of the Islamist list. Make sure that you put on this list only those acts whose justification lies in orthodox Christian doctrine, and not acts by people who just happen to be residents of 'Christian' lands.
This is one of the books I am reading at the moment. Tr. Ryan Bloom. First appeared in French in 1989 by Editions Gallimard, Paris, English translation 2008, first paperback edition 2010 (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago).
Some good stuff here, but some nonsense as well, for example:
A priest who regrets having to leave his books when dying? Which proves that the intense pleasure of eternal life does not infinitely exceed the gentle company of books. (94)
It proves no such thing, obviously. Our literary man is confusing the thought of eternal life with the experience of eternal life.
The trouble with too many French philosophers is they cannot decide whether they want to be clever literary scribblers or actual philosophers. It is often difficult to dress up the plain truth in fine phrases.
One of the temptations we philosophers face is that of allowing style to dictate substance. A temptation to be resisted.
Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 13 June: "Omar Mateen despised gays in the same way that Donald Trump and too many of his supporters despise Muslims."
Why isn't this libel?
'Libel' as defined in the law:
1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander, which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Read more.
Dvorak and her employers ought to be careful. Trump is a vindictive man with the will and the wherewithal to take legal action against his enemies. There are plenty of negative things she could say about the man that are true.
Whether or not Dvorak's outrageous statement counts as libel, she has no evidence for it. To call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration is perfectly reasonable in present circumstances and does not imply any hatred of Muslims.
Analogy. The law forbids the sale of firearms to felons. I think this provision of the law is wise and good and conducive unto law and order. Does that make me a hater of felons? I don't hate them; I merely hold that it would be unwise to allow them to purchase firearms. Similarly, I don't hate Muslims, I merely hold that in present circumstances it would be wise to vet carefully immigrants from Muslim lands.
Is diversity our strength? Or anybody's strength, anywhere in the world? Does Japan's homogeneous population cause the Japanese to suffer? Have the Balkans been blessed by their heterogeneity -- or does the very word "Balkanization" remind us of centuries of strife, bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities, extending into our own times?
Has Europe become a safer place after importing vast numbers of people from the Middle East, with cultures hostile to the fundamental values of Western civilization?
Read the whole thing in the light (darkness?) of Orlando.
This is a repost, slightly redacted, from 2012 to help stem the tsunami of folderol sure to wash over us from the orifices of the mindless gun-grabbing Left in the wake of the Islamist Orlando rampage.
Without wanting to deny that there is a 'gun culture' in the USA, especially in the so-called red states, I would insist that the real problem is our liberal culture. Here are four characteristics of liberal culture that contribute to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
1. Liberals tend to have a casual attitude toward crime.
It is interesting to note that Connecticut, the state in which the Newtown massacre occurred, has recently repealed the death penalty, and this after the unspeakably brutal Hayes-Komisarjevsky home invasion in the same state.
One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
The wife was raped and strangled, one of the daughters was molested and both girls were left tied to their beds as the house was set on fire.
The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.
Anyone who cannot appreciate that a crime like this deserves the death penalty is morally obtuse. But not only are liberals morally obtuse, they are contemptibly stupid in failing to understand that one of the main reasons people buy guns is to protect themselves from the criminal element, the criminal element that liberals coddle. If liberals were serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of guns in civilian hands, they would insist on swift and sure punishment in accordance with the self-evident moral principle, "The punishment must fit the crime," which is of course not to be confused with lex talionis, "an eye for an eye." Many guns are purchased not for hunting or sport shooting but for protection against criminals. Keeping and bearing arms carries with it a grave responsibility and many if not most gun owners would rather not be so burdened. Gun ownership among women is on the upswing, and it is a safe bet that they don't want guns to shoot Bambi.
2. Liberals tend to undermine morality with their opposition to religion.
Many of us internalized the ethical norms that guide our lives via our childhood religious training. We were taught the Ten Commandments, for example. We were not just taught about them, we were taught them. We learned them by heart, and we took them to heart. This early training, far from being the child abuse that A. C. Grayling and other militant atheists think it is, had a very positive effect on us in forming our consciences and making us the basically decent human beings we are. I am not saying that moral formation is possible only within a religion; I am saying that some religions do an excellent job of transmitting and inculcating life-guiding and life-enhancing ethical standards, that moral formation outside of a religion is unlikely for the average person, and that it is nearly impossible if children are simply handed over to the pernicious influences of secular society as these influences are transmitted through television, Internet, video games, and other media. Anyone with moral sense can see that the mass media have become an open sewer in which every manner of cultural polluter is not only tolerated but promoted. Those of use who were properly educated way back when can dip into this cesspool without too much moral damage. But to deliver our children over to it is the real child abuse, pace the benighted Professor Grayling.
The shysters of the American Civil Liberties Union, to take one particularly egregious bunch of destructive leftists, seek to remove every vestige of our Judeo-Christian ethical traditiion from the public square. I can't begin to catalog all of their antics. But recently there was the Mojave Memorial Cross incident. It is absurd that there has been any fight at all over it. The ACLU, whose radical lawyers brought the original law suit, deserve contempt and resolute opposition. Of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the initial clause of the First Amendment, to wit, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." But it is hate-America leftist extremism on stilts to think that the presence of that very old memorial cross on a hill in the middle of nowhere does anything to establish Christianity as the state religion. I consider anyone who believes that to be intellectually obtuse and morally repellent. One has to be highly unbalanced in his thinking to torture such extremist nonsense out of the First Amendment, while missing the plain sense of the Second Amendment, one that even SCOTUS eventually got right, namely, the the right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right.
And then there was the business of the tiny cross on the city seal of Los Angeles, a symbol that the ACLU agitated to have removed. I could continue with the examples, and you hope I won't.
3. Liberals tend to have low standards, glorify the worthless, and fail to present exemplary human types.
Our contemporary media dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
4. Liberals tend to deny or downplay free will, individual responsibility, and the reality of evil.
This is connected with point (2) above, leftist hostility to religion. Key to our Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Central to this image is that mysterious power in us called free will. The secular extremist assault on religion is at the same time an assault on this mysterious power, through which evil comes into the world.
This is a large topic. Suffice it to say for now that one clear indication of this denial is the bizarre liberal displacement of responsibility for crime onto inanimate objects, guns, as if the weapon, not the wielder, is the source of the evil for which the weapon can be only the instrument.
It's about time these establishment types began wising up:
[. . .] Immigration to the U.S., and citizenship itself, should be seen, again, as a privilege, not a right—and assimilation and integration, not multicultural separatism and ethnic and religious chauvinism, should be the goal of the host. We need not single out Muslims in terms of restricting immigration, but we should take a six-month timeout on all would-be immigrants from countries in the Middle East deemed war zones—Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen—not only for our own immediate security but also to send a general message that entrance into the U.S. is a rare and prized opportunity, not simply a cheap and pro forma entitlement.
The inability of Barack Obama and the latest incarnation of Hillary Clinton to utter “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” in connection with Muslims’ murderous killing sprees again is exposed as an utterly bankrupt, deadly, and callous politically correct platitude. Mateen did not learn to hate homosexuals from the American government, popular American culture, or our schools, but rather from radical and likely ISIS-driven Islamic indoctrination. From Iran to Saudi Arabia, the treatment of gays is reprehensible—but largely exempt from Western censure, on the tired theory that in the confused pantheon of -isms and -ologies, multiculturalism trumps human rights.
Finally, the Left will blame guns, not ideology, for the mass murder, forgetting that disarmed soldiers who could not shoot back were slaughtered by Major Hasan, that the Tsarnaev brothers preferred home-cooked explosives to blow up innocents in Boston, that the Oklahoma and UC Merced Islamists did their beheading or stabbing with a knife, and that Mateen likely followed strict gun-registration laws in obtaining his weapons.
Indeed. There is no right to immigrate, and the USA has no obligation to accept subversive elements. We do have a right, however, to demand assimilation. This has definite consequences. If you are a taxi driver you cannot refuse to accept as a fare a person coming out of a liquor store with a closed container of spirits. If you work check out in a supermarket, you cannot refuse to touch a package of bacon. If you refuse, you ought to be fired on the spot. If you want to dress up like a nun of the 1950s, go right ahead, but we had better be able to see your face.
We are tolerant, but not to the point of tolerating the intolerance of Sharia. You must renounce it and accept our values if you wish to live among us.
We are peace-loving, but we are prepared to defend our superior culture against barbarians.
This is a summary of a much longer and more carefully articulated 2009 entry.
Humans possess a natural right to life. This right entails the right to defend one's life. The right to defend one's life entails the right to acquire and possess the appropriate means to the defense of one's life. Appropriate means are means commensurate with one's situation. For example, if the criminal element with which one is likely to come into contact has at its disposal semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines, then such weapons figure among the appropriate means to the defense of one's life. So given the right to life, one can easily derive the right to the means of self-defense. Among these means will be various types of hand gun and long gun. Not all types, perhaps, but some. In this way gun rights are derivable from the right to life.
Many are tempted by the thought that nothing ultimately matters, and in some this thought becomes an oppressive mood that paralyzes and renders life unlivable. Leo Tolstoy's "My Confession" is perhaps the best expression of this dark and oppressive nihilism. But the sense that nothing matters contains an insight which is as it were the silver lining of the dark cloud of nihilism.
The insight is that nothing finite is truly satisfactory, worthy of our ultimate concern, or finally real. It is an insight that serves as prophylaxis against the smug self-satisfaction of the worldling and his idolatry of the transient.
The nihilist is closer to God than he thinks, closer than the worldling, and closer than those for whom religion is a palliative and a convenience.
A good blogger exercises restraint as to what he posts. Too much of the merely personal makes for a boring blog. Facebook is the place for narcissism. But a blog bare of all traces of the personal is not a blog either, by my definition, one with which you are free to disagree. Here is an entry from my written journal which illustrates what needn't be published to the four corners of the earth:
The old push broom has been retired from service, 30 years worth, it may well be. The handle had become unrepairably unattached to the brush. I believe I bought the old broom when we purchased our first house 30 years ago in '86. I bought a new 'industrial' broom on Saturday, long-handled and serious, at the Crismon Road Home Despot Depot. I can't wait to try it out.
Neue Besen kehren gut!
Fear not, I shall not report on the state of my bowels, which is excellent, nor pull a Trump and crow about the efficacy of my schlong.
Well, it has come to a nightclub, a homosexual establishment, though it might not be near you. But do you think that this is the last incident of its kind? Bruce Bawer at the excellent City Journal:
On CNN and Fox News, one politician after another professed to be “shocked” by the massacre in Orlando. “Who would have expected such a thing?” people kept asking. Actually, I’ve been expecting just such a thing for years. The only shock was that it took this long for some jihadist to go after a gay establishment.
Islamic law, after all, is crystal clear on homosexuality, though the various schools of sharia prescribe a range of penalties: one calls for death by stoning; another demands that the transgressor be thrown from a high place; a third says to drop a building on him. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, as well as in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, homosexuality is indeed punishable by death.
Nor do Muslims magically change their views on the subject when they move to the West. [. . .]
Donald Trump has many sound ideas, many more than Hillary does. This is why you should vote for him. One of the sound ideas is that it it would make sense to have a moratorium on Muslim immigration. The trouble with The Donald, however, is that he cannot express his sound ideas properly in a non-incendiary and nuanced way, adding such qualifications as are necessary. So he comes across as a nativist yahoo. But he is still basically right, just as Lindsey Graham is still basically an idiot for denouncing Trump's proposal as "xenophobic." Is Graham a closet leftist? That is the way leftists talk. Anyone with sense knows that there is nothing 'xenophobic' or 'Islamophobic' about carefully vetting Muslim immigrants.
Vote for Hillary and you can expect more Islamist outrages on our soil. In this respect, she is nothing but Obama in drag. Vote for Trump and the chances are good that there will be fewer such outrages.
Don't forget that politics is not about choosing between the good and the bad, but between the better and the worse. You should also realize that not to decide is to decide; in particular, to abstain from our lousy presidential choice is to aid and abet the destructive Hillary.
In response to two recent posts, here and here, Jacques comments:
I'm mostly persuaded by your recent posts about theism and knowledge, but I disagree about your claim that
"Presumably God can prove the existence of God, if he exists, not that he needs to."
Think of your condition 5 ["It is such that all its premises are known to be true."] if you can prove that p then you can derive p from an argument with premises all of which are known to be true. Suppose that God has some argument A for the conclusion that God exists. As you point out, A will either depend on premises taken to be self-evident, or an appeal to the seeming self-evidence of further premises in sub-arguments for the premises in A that are not taken to be self-evident. But now suppose that there's some premise P such that A is a proof of theism for God only if God takes P to be self-evident and P really is self-evident -- in other words, only if P is 'objectively' self-evident and not just 'subjectively'. Of course, P might well appear to God to be self-evident; it might even appear to him that the objective self-evidence of P is itself objectively self-evident, and so on ad infinitum. But how could He really know, or be rationally entitled to believe, that P really is self-evident in the relevant sense rather than just seeming that way to Him? Sure, if He already knows that God exists, and that He Himself = God, then He can infer that the fact that P seems to him self-evident entails its real objective self-evidence. But how can He know that unless He can prove that He = God?
BV: The question seems to come down to whether or not the distinction between subjective and objective self-evidence applies to God as well as to us. It does apply to us. But I don't see that it applies to God. God's is an archetypal intellect, which implies that divine knowledge is creative of its object, whereas our knowledge is clearly not. If God knows that p by making it the case that p, then there is no logical gap between subjective and objective self-evidence for God.
On the other hand, it could be that God isn't even capable of proving anything. Maybe proofs are only possible for ignorant thinkers (who don't know directly, by acquaintance all the facts). But if He could prove or try to prove things I suspect His situation would be no better than ours with respect to His existence. Of course that conflicts with the (definitional?) fact of His omniscience, but maybe the conclusion should just be that the traditional concept of the Omni- God is incoherent.
BV: The divine intellect is intuitive, not discursive. God knows directly, not mediately via inferential processes. To know something in the latter way is an inferior way of knowing, and as such inappropriate to the divine intellect. Does it follow that God can't prove anything? I would hesitate to say that given the divine omnipotence: if he wanted to construct a proof he could. The point is that he doesn't need to. But we do need to employ inferential process to articulate and amplify our knowledge both deductively and inductively.
The main question, however, was whether WE can prove the existence of God. My answer to that is in the negative. The reason is due to the nature of proof as set forth in my definition. But perhaps you have a better definition.
This is an addendum to clarify what I said two days ago.
My claim is that we have no demonstrative knowledge of the truth of theism or of the falsity of naturalism. Demonstrative knowledge is knowledge produced by a demonstration. A demonstration in this context is an argument that satisfies all of the following conditions:
1. It is deductive 2. It is valid in point of logical form 3. It is free of such informal fallacies as petitio principii 4. It is such that all its premises are true 5. It is such that all its premises are known to be true 6. It is such that its conclusion is relevant to its premises.
To illustrate (6). The following argument satisfies all of the conditions except the last and is therefore probatively worthless:
Snow is white ergo Either Obama is president or he is not.
On my use of terms, a demonstrative argument = a probative argument = a proof = a rationally compelling argument. Now clearly there are good arguments (of different sorts) that are not demonstrative, probative, rationally compelling. One type is the strong inductive argument. By definition, no such argument satisfies (1) or (2). A second type is the argument that satisfies all the conditions except (5).
Can one prove the existence of God? That is, can one produce a proof (as above defined) of the existence of God? I don't think so. For how will you satisfy condition (5)? Suppose you give argument A for the existence of God. How do you know that the premises of A are true? By argument? Suppose A has premises P1, P2, P3. Will you give arguments for these premises? Then you need three more arguments, one for each of P1, P2, P3, each of which has its own premises. A vicious infinite regress is in the offing. Needless to say, moving in an argumentative circle is no better.
At some point you will have to invoke self-evidence. You will have to say that, e.g., it is just self-evident that every event has a cause. And you will have to mean objectively self-evident, not just subjectively self-evident. But how can you prove, to yourself or anyone else, that what is subjectively self-evident is objectively self-evident? You can't, at least not with respect to states of affairs transcending your consciousness.
Paging Baron von Muenchhausen.
I conclude that no one can prove the existence of God. But one can reasonably believe that God exists. The same holds for the nonexistence of God. No one can prove the nonexistence of God. But one can reasonably believe that there is no God.
Of course, when I say that no one can prove the existence of God I mean no one of us. Presumably God can prove the existence of God, if he exists, not that he needs to. And when I said above that a probative argument is such that all its premises are known to be true, I meant, as any charitable reader would have assumed, "known by us."
The same goes for naturalism. I cannot prove that there is more to reality than the space-time system and its contents. But I can reasonably believe it. For I have a battery of powerful arguments each of which satisfies conditions (1), (2), (3) and (6) and may even, as far as far as I know, satisfy (4).
"So how is the atheist not irrational on your view, assuming he is apprised of your arguments?"
He is not irrational because none of my arguments are rationally compelling in the sense I supplied, namely, they are not such as to force every competent philosophical practitioner to accept their conclusions on pain of being irrational if he does not. Surely it would be foolish to say that atheists, the lot of them, are irrational people.
Either God exists or he does not. But both theism and atheism are rationally acceptable.
To end with a psychological speculation: those who hanker after proofs of God and the soul or the opposite are insufficiently mature to live with doxastic insecurity.
Our life here below is insecure physically, psychologically, socially, economically, and in every way, including doxastically. We need, and sometimes crave, security. Our pursuit of it can be ordinate. For example, the wise make provision for the future by saving and investing, taking care of their health, buying insurance, planning how they will react to certain emergencies, etc. Fools, by contrast, live as if there is no tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, they either perish of their folly or suffer unnecessarily.
But there is also an inordinate pursuit of security. It is impossible in this life totally to secure oneself in any of the ways mentioned, including with respect to belief. One must accept that life is a venture and an adventure across the board.
A very rich and perceptive essay by Charles Kesler.
The following passage illustrates what Keith Burgess-Jackson calls 'academentia':
It’s no coincidence that the two loudest, most consequential socio-political forces in America right now are Political Correctness and Donald Trump. One is at home on college campuses, the other in the world of working people. Yet they are already beginning to collide. At Emory University recently, someone scrawled “Trump 2016” in chalk on steps and sidewalks around the campus. About 50 students swiftly assembled to protest the outrage, shouting, “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” Aghast at “the chalkings,” the university president complied.
At Scripps College, just a few weeks ago, a Mexican-American student awoke to find “#trump2016” written on the whiteboard on her door. The student body president, in a mass email, quickly condemned the “racist incident” and denounced Trump’s hashtag as a symbol of violence and a “testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses.” The student body’s response, apparently, was underwhelming. Shortly the dean of students weighed in with an email of her own, upbraiding students who thought the student body president’s email had been, oh, an overreaction. The dean noted that although Scripps of course respects its students’ First Amendment rights, in this case the “circumstances here are unique.” Note to dean: the circumstances are always unique.
I say: death to political correctness. We need more free speech, and more denunciations of liberal-left evil-doers, not only the termites undermining our institutions, but also the thugs on the streets. Not to mention more of that which backs up free speech.
To theists, I say: go on being theists. You are better off being a theist than not being one. Your position is rationally defensible and the alternatives are rationally rejectable. But don't fancy that you can prove the existence of God or the opposite. In the end you must decide how you will live and what you will believe.
About "Don't fancy that you can prove the existence of God or the opposite," Owen Anderson asks:
How would we know if that claim is itself true? Isn't it is possible that one or the other can indeed be proven?
To formulate my point in the declarative rather than the exhortative mood:
P. Neither the existence nor the nonexistence of God is provable.
How do I know (P) to be true? By reflection on the nature of proof. An argument is a proof if and only if it satisfies all of the following six requirements: it is deductive; valid in point of logical form; free of such informal fallacies as petitio principii; possesses a conclusion that is relevant to the premises; has premises each of which is true; has premises each of which is known to be true.
I say that an argument is a proof if and only it is rationally compelling, or rationally coercive. But an argument needn't be rationally compelling to be a more or less 'good argument,' one that renders its conclusion more or less rationally acceptable.
Now if my definition above gives what we ought to mean by 'proof,' then it is clear that neither the existence nor the nonexistence of God can be proven. Suppose you present a theistic or anti-theistic argument that satisfies the first five requirements. I will then ask how you know that the premises are true. Suppose one of your premises is that change is the conversion of potency into act. That is a plausible thing to maintain, but how do you know that it is true? How do you know that the general-ontological framework within which the proposition acquires its very sense, namely, Aristotelian metaphysics, is tenable? After all, there are alternative ways of understanding change. That there is change is a datum, a Moorean fact, but it would be an obvious mistake to confuse this datum with some theory about it, even if the theory is true. Suppose the theory is true. This still leaves us with the question of how we know it is. Besides, the notions of potency and act, substance and accident, form and matter, and all the rest of the Aristotelian conceptuality are murky and open to question. (For example, the notion of prime matter is a necessary ingredient in an Aristotelian understanding of substantial change, but the notion of materia prima is either incoherent or else not provably coherent.)
To take a second example, suppose I give a cosmological argument the starting point of which is the seemingly innocuous proposition that there are are contingent beings, and go on to argument that this starting point together with some auxiliary premises, entails the existence of God. How do I know that existnece can be predicated of concrete individuals? Great philosophers have denied it. Frege and Russell fanmously held that existence vannot be meaningfully predicated of individuals but only of cncepts and propositional functions. I have rather less famoulsy argued that the 'GFressellina' view' is mstaken, but this is a point of controversy. Furtrhertmore, if existence cannot be meaningfully predicated of individuals, how can individuals be said to exist contingently?
The Appeal to Further Arguments
If you tell me that the premises of your favorite argument can be known to be true on the basis of further arguments that take those premises as their conclusions, then I simply iterate my critical procedure: I run the first five tests above and if your arguments pass those, then I ask how you know that their premises are true. If you appeal to still further arguments, then you embark upon a vicious infinite regress.
The Appeal to Self-Evidence
If you tell me that the premises of your argument are self-evident, then I will point out that your and my subjective self-evidence is unavailing. It is self-evident to me that capital punishment is precisely what justice demands in certain cases. I'll die in the ditch for that one, and pronounce you morally obtuse to boot for not seeing it. But there are some who are intelligent, well-meaning, and sophisticated to whom this is not self-evident. They will charge with with moral obtuseness. Examples are easily multiplied. What is needed is objective, discussion-stopping, self-evidence. But then, how, in a given case, do you know that your evidence is indeed objective? All you can go on is how things seem to you. If it seems to you that it is is objectively the case that p, that boils down to: it seems to you that, etc., in which case your self-evidence is again merely subjective.
The Appeal to Authority
You may attempt to support the premises of your argument by an appeal to authority. Now many such appeals are justified. We rightly appeal to the authority of gunsmiths, orthopaedic surgeons, actuaries and other experts all the time, and quite sensibly. But such appeals are useless when it comes to PROOF. How do you know that your putative authority really is one, and even if he is, how do you know that he is eight in the present case? How do you know he is not lying to you well he tells you you need a new sere in your semi-auto pistol?
If your argument falls afoul of petitio principii, that condemns it, and the diameter of the circle doesn't matter. A circle is a circle no matter its diameter.
Am I Setting the Bar Too High?
It seems to me I am setting it exactly where it belongs. After all we are talking about PROOF here and surely only arguments that generate knowledge count as proofs. But if an argument is to generate a known proposition, then its premises must be known, and not merely believed, or believed on good evidence, or assumed, etc.
"But aren't you assuming that knowledge entails certainty, or (if this is different) impossibility of mistake?" Yes I am assuming that. Argument here.
Can I Consistently Claim to Know that (P) is true?
Owen Anderson asked me how I know that (P) is true. I said I know it by reflection on the concept of proof. But that was too quick. Obviously I cannot consistently claim to know that (P) if knowledge entails certainty. For how do I know that my definition captures the essence of proof? How do I know that there is an essence of proof, or any essence of anything? What I want to say, of course, is that it is very reasonable to define 'proof' as I define it -- absent some better definition -- and that if one does so define it then it is clear that there are very few proofs, and, in particular, that there are no proofs of God or of the opposite.
"But then isn't it is possible that one or the other can indeed be proven?"
Yes, if one operates with a different, less rigorous, definition of 'proof.' But in philosophy we have and maintain high standards. So I say proof is PROOF (a tautological form of words that expresses a non-tautological proposition) and that we shouldn't use the word to refer to arguments that merely render their conclusions rationally acceptable.
Note also that if we retreat from the rationally compelling to the rationally acceptable, then both theism and atheism are rationally acceptable. I suspect that what Owen wants is a knock-down argument for the existence of God. But if that is what he wants, then he wants a proof in my sense of the world. If I am right, that is something very unreasonable to expect.
There is no getting around the need for a decision. In the end, after all the considerations pro et contra, you must decide what you will believe and how you will live.
Life is a venture and an adventure. You cannot live without risk. This is true not only in the material sphere, but also in the realm of ideas.
A strange idea has gained currency recently, namely, that racial differences are invented, that race is a social construct, a theory, indeed a false theory. And so we hear David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy from the University of New England, asserting that "Phenotypic diversity is a fact, but race is a theory."
Self-identify as one and then enter their track and field and other events. This is actually happening and the mommies of the girls are none too pleased. Don't the mommies understand that sex and race are matters of personal decision?
God does what Husserl's transcendental ego wanted to do but couldn't pull off, namely, constitute beings not as mere unities of sense, but as beings, as "independent reals" to borrow a phrase from Josiah Royce. Husserl's transcendental idealism never gets the length of Sein; it reaches only as far as Seinsinn.
This leads us to perhaps the ultimate paradox of divine creation. God freely creates beings that are both (i) wholly dependent on God's creative activity at every moment for their existence, and yet (ii) beings in their own own right, not merely intentional objects of the divine mind. The extreme case of this is God's free creation of finite minds, finite subjects, finite unities of consciousness and self-consciousness, finite centers of inviolable inwardness, finite free agents, finite free agents with the power to refuse their own good, their own happiness, and to defy the nature of reality. God creates potential rebels. He creates Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus. He creates Lucifer the light bearer who, blinded by his own light, refuses to acknowledge the source of his light, and would be that source even though the project of becoming the source of his own light is doomed to failure, and he knows it, but pursues it anyway. Lucifer as the father of all perversity.
God creates and sustains, moment by moment, an other mind, like unto his own, made in his image, who is yet radically other in its inwardness and freedom. How is this conceivable?
We are not objects for the divine subject, but subjects in our own right. How can we understand creation ex nihilo, together with moment by moment conservation, of a genuine subject, a genuine mind with intellect and free will?
This is the mystery of divine creation. It is is above my pay grade. And yours too.
God can do it but we can't. We can't even understand how God could do it. A double infirmity.
Saturday marked the 44th anniversary of Angela Davis’s acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. Remember Angela Davis? I asked several of my younger colleagues: No one under 35 had heard of her. But the former Black Panther, recipient of the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize, and two-time vice-presidential candidate on the Communist Party ticket with Gus Hall, was once a household name. That was enough for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, which last Thursday bestowed on Ms. Davis the 2016 Sackler Center First Award, “honoring women who are first in their fields.”
Previous honorees include the novelist Toni Morrison, Miss Piggy and Anita Hill—pioneers all, no question. Ms. Davis is surely the first person to have parlayed an appearance on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list into a tenured professorship at the University of California.
A massage parlor is given the name Nirvana, the implication being that after a well-executed massage one will be in the eponymous state. This betrays a misunderstanding of Nirvana, no doubt, but that is not the main thing, which is the perverse tendency to attach a religious or spiritual significance to a merely sensuous state of relaxation.
Why can’t the hedonist just enjoy his sensory states without glorifying them? Equivalently, why can’t he admit that there is something beyond him without attempting to drag it down to his level? But no! He wants to have it both ways: he wants both sensuous indulgence and spirituality. He wants sensuality to be a spiritual experience and spirituality to be as easy of access as sensuous enjoyment.
A catalog of currently misused religious terms would have to include ‘heaven,’ ‘seventh heaven,’ ‘hell,’ 'dark night of the soul,' and many others besides.
Take ‘retreat.’ Time was, when one went on a retreat to get away from the world to re-collect oneself, meditating on the state of one's soul and on first and last things. But now one retreats from the world to become even more worldly, to gear up for greater exertions in the realms of business or academe. One retreats from ordinary busy-ness to prepare for even greater busy- ness.
Instead of dropping 'retreat,' which would be the honest thing to do, the secularist drains it of its religious meaning and gives it a worldly one, but without entirely stripping it of its original sense. In this way the secularist can attempt to profit from ancient associations without quitting his secularity.
And then there is ‘spirituality.’ The trendy embrace the term but shun its close cousin, ‘religion.’ I had a politically correct Jewish professor in my kitchen a while back whose husband had converted from Roman Catholicism to Judaism. I asked her why he had changed his religion. She objected to the term ‘religion,’ explaining that his change was a ‘spiritual’ one.
I didn't lay into the good lady as I perhaps should have, for her 'spiritual' good.
Etymologically, ‘religion’ suggests a binding, a God-man ligature, so to speak. But trendy New Age types don’t want to be bound by anything, or submit to anything. I suggest that this is part of the explanation of the favoring of the S word over the R word. Another part of the explanation is political. To those with a Leftward tilt, ‘religion’ reminds them of the Religious Right whose power strikes them as ominous while that of the Religious Left is no cause for concern.
A third part of the explanation may be that religion is closely allied with morality, while spirituality is often portrayed as beyond morality with its dualism of good and evil. One of the worst features of New Age types is their conceit that they are beyond duality when they are firmly enmired in it. Perhaps the truly enlightened are beyond moral dualism and can live free of moral injunctions. But what often happens in practice in that spiritual aspirants and gurus fall into ordinary immorality while pretending to have transcended it.
One may recall the famous cases of Rajneesh and Chogyam Trungpa. According to one report, ". . . Trungpa slept with a different woman every night in order to transmit the teaching to them. L. intimated that it was really a hardship for Trungpa to do this, but it was his duty in order to spread the dharma."
This gives new meaning to the phrase 'dharma bum.'
'Theology' is often misused. In the reliably politically correct NYT, we find:
“When you buy gold you’re saying nothing is going to work and everything is going to stay ridiculous,” said Mackin Pulsifer, vice chairman and chief investment officer of Fiduciary Trust International in New York. “There is a fair cohort who believes this in a theological sense, but I believe it’s unreasonable given the history of the United States.”
So to believe something 'in a theological sense' is to believe it unreasonably. It follows that liberals have plenty of 'theological' beliefs. In the 'theology' of a liberal theology can be dismissed unread as irrational.
The Never Hike Alone warning found in most hiking books is not just a piece of CYA boilerplate required by publishers. It is good advice. I have violated it numerous times in unforgiving country in quest of my inner Thoreauvian, but then I am extremely cautious. But I don't go quite as far as Henry David's harsh, "I have no walks to throw away on company." It's a balancing act: the wilderness explorer seeks solitude but he also hopes to return to hike again. A competent partner will raise the probability of that.
The following disclaimer is my favorite, from local author, Ted Tenny, Goldfield Mountain Hikes, p. 4:
The risks of desert hiking include, but are not limited to: heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat prostration, heat cramps, sunburn, dehydration, flash floods, drowning, freezing, hypothermia, getting lost, getting stranded after dark, falling, tripping, being stung, clawed or bitten by venomous or non-venomous creatures, being scratched or stuck by thorny plants, being struck by lightning, falling rocks, natural or artificial objects falling from the sky, or a comet colliding with the Earth.
Still up for a hike?
If you lose the trail, or have the least doubt that you are still on trail, stop. Do not plunge on. Retrace your steps to where the trail was clear and then proceed. Thus spoke the Sage of the Superstitions.
Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night gushed over the late boxer as a "transcendent" specimen of humanity. Her over-the-top performance put me in mind of what I call the 'Pincers Passage' in Heidegger's 1935 lecture, Introduction to Metaphysics (tr. Ralph Manheim, Doubleday 1961, p. 31, emphasis added.
This Europe, in its ruinous blindness forever on the point of cutting its own throat, lies today in a great pincers, squeezed between Russia on the one side and America on the other.From a metaphysical point of view, Russia and America are the same; the same dreary technological frenzy, the same unrestricted organization of the average man. At a time when the farthermost corner of the globe has been conquered by technology and opened to economic exploitation; when any incident whatever, regardless of where or when it occurs, can be communicated to the rest of the world at any desired speed; when the assassination of a king in France and a symphony concert in Tokyo can be 'experienced' simultaneously, and time as history has vanished from the lives of all peoples; when a boxer is regarded as a nation's great man; when mass meetings attended by millions are looked on as a triumph -- then, yes then, through all this turmoil a question still haunts us like a specter: What for? -- Whither? -- And what then?
The formidable Tammy Bruce exposes the organizational underpinnings of the supposedly 'spontaneous' violence directed against Trump and his supporters:
Make no mistake — these supposed anti-Trump riots are not organic nor are they natural; they are the result of leftist organizing using paid stooges. Fox News reported in March a Craigslist ad posted by Bernie Sanders supporters offering $15 an hour to protest at a Trump rally in Wisconsin. They would also provide shuttle bus transport, parking if you needed it and ready-made signs.
[. . .]
When confronted with the fact that the organizers of these melees are Bernie Sanders supporters, and representatives from Democrat-allied groups, like La Raza and MoveOn.org, the Democratic party establishment denies, denies, denies. They then condemn the violence with one hand, while their allies perpetuate it.
By the way La Raza means 'the race.' So who are the real racists?
I am tempted to run a pun past his name. It is a temptation I will resist. I've seen him on C-SPAN and I've read too many of his columns from the piss-poor pages of the Grey Lady's Op-Ed section. Nice guy, apparently, lovely wife. But a fool. Judge for yourself.
Then this will interest you. If and only if. Something about the instrument here. October is Kerouac Month hereabouts and so I won't say more now. I must discipline my Kerouac 'obsession' (speaking loosely). Only four months to go!
It has taken almost 50 years, but the Democrats have finally found their inner Nixon. Make no mistake about it: Hillary Clinton is the most Nixonian figure in the post-Watergate period. Indeed, Democrats appear to have reached the type of moral compromise that Nixon waited, unsuccessfully, for Republicans to accept: Some 71% of Democrats want Clinton to run even if indicted.
Some of us are old enough to remember when he fought and bragged under the name, 'Cassius Clay.' Later known as Muhammad Ali, the great boxer died yesterday in Scottsdale at age 74. I won't comment on the man except to wonder how much of Donald Trump's braggadoccio and argumentative tactics were inspired by him.
Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer. "A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."
Addendum (6/5). The following from Wikipedia. Does it remind you of someone?
Ali regularly taunted and baited his opponents—including Liston, Frazier, and Foreman—before the fight and often during the bout itself. Ali's pre-fight theatrics were almost always highly entertaining, and his words were sometimes cutting, and were largely designed to promote the fight. His antics often targeted a particular psychological trigger or vulnerability in his opponent that would provoke a reaction and cause the opponent to lose focus. He said Frazier was "too dumb to be champion", that he would whip Liston "like his Daddy did", that Terrell was an "Uncle Tom" and that Patterson was a "rabbit." In speaking of how Ali stoked Liston's anger and overconfidence before their first fight, one writer commented that "the most brilliant fight strategy in boxing history was devised by a teenager who had graduated 376 in a class of 391."
Ali typically portrayed himself as the "people's champion" and his opponent as a tool of the (white) establishment (despite the fact that his entourage often had more white faces than his opponents'). During the early part of Ali's career, he built a reputation for predicting rounds in which he would finish opponents, often vowing to crawl across the ring or to leave the country if he lost the bout. Ali admitted he adopted the latter practice from "Gorgeous"George Wagner, a popular professional wrestling champion in the Greater Los Angeles Area who drew thousands of fans to his matches as "the man you love to hate."
ESPN columnist Ralph Wiley called Ali "The King of Trash Talk." In 2013, The Guardian said Ali exemplified boxing's "golden age of trash talking."The Bleacher Report called Clay's description of Sonny Liston smelling like a bear and his vow to donate him to a zoo after he beat him the greatest trash talk line in sports history.
This is one of the best articles on political correctness I have read. Study it. It will be on the final. (Italics in original; bolding added; a comment of mine in blue.)
Political correctness is the biggest issue facing America today. Even Trump has just barely faced up to it. The ironic name disguises the real nature of this force, which ought to be called invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism. The old-time American mainstream, working- and middle-class white males and their families, is mad as hell about political correctness and the havoc it has wreaked for 40 years — havoc made worse by the flat refusal of most serious Republicans to confront it. Republicans rarely even acknowledge its existence as the open wound it really is; a wound that will fester forever until someone has the nerve to heal it — or the patient succumbs. To watch young minorities protest their maltreatment on fancy campuses when your own working life has seen, from the very start, relentless discrimination in favor of minorities—such events can make people a little testy.
We are fighting Islamic terrorism, but the president won't even say "Islamic terrorism." It sounds like a joke — but it isn't funny. It connects straight to other problems that terrify America's non-elites, people who do not belong (or whose spouses or children don't belong) to the races or groups that are revered and protected under p.c. law and theology.
[Please don't misuse the word 'theology'; you're talking like a liberal now and foolishly buying into the assumption that theism and theology are buncombe, which of course is not what you intend to do.]
Political correctness means that when the Marines discover that combat units are less effective if they include women, a hack overrules them. What's more important, guys, combat effectiveness or leftist dogma? No contest! Nor is it hard to notice that putting women in combat is not exactly the kind of issue that most American women are losing sleep over. It matters only to a small, powerful clique of delusional ideologues. (The insinuation that our p.c. military is upholding the rights of women everywhere, that your average American woman values feminist dogma over the strongest-possible fighting force—as if women were just too ditzy to care about boring things like winning battles—is rage-making.)
The mainstream press largely ignored the Marines story. Mainstream reporters can't see the crucial importance of political correctness because they are wholly immersed in it, can't conceive of questioning it; it is the very stuff of their thinking, their heart's blood. Most have been raised in this faith and have no other. Can you blame them if they take it for granted?
Why did the EPA try to issue a diktat designed to destroy the American coal industry in exchange for decreases in carbon emissions that were purely symbolic? Political correctness required this decree. It is not just a matter of infantile posing, like pretending to be offended by the name Washington Redskins. Bureaucrats have been ordered by those on high to put their p.c. principles into practice, and the character of American government is changing.
The IRS attacks conservative groups — and not one IRS worker has the integrity or guts to resign on principle, not one. Political correctness is a creed, and the creed holds that American conservatives are ignorant, stupid, and evil. This has been the creed for a generation, but people are angry now because we see, for the first time, political correctness powering an administration and a federal bureaucracy the way a big V-8 powers a sports car. The Department of Justice contributes its opinion that the IRS was guilty of no crime — and has made other politically slanted decisions too; and those decisions all express the credo of thought-police liberalism, as captured by the motto soon to be mounted (we hear) above the main door at the White House, the IRS, and the DOJ: We know what's best; you shut up.
[. . .]
The State Department, naturally, is installing the same motto above its door — together with a flag emblazoned with a presidential phone and a presidential pen, the sacred instruments of invasive leftism. Christians are persecuted, enslaved, murdered in the Middle East, but the Obama regime is not interested. In a distant but related twist, Obama orders Christian organizations to dispense contraceptives whether they want to or not. This is political correctness in action — invasive leftism. Political correctness holds that Christians are a bygone force, reactionary, naïve, and irrelevant. If you don't believe it, go to the universities that trained Obama, Columbia and Harvard, and listen. We live in the Biblical Republic, founded by devout Christians with a Creed (liberty, equality, democracy) supported directly — each separate principle — by ancient Hebrew verses. Christianity created this nation. But p.c. people don't know history. Don't even know that there is any. Stalin forced the old Bolsheviks to confess to crimes they never committed, then had them shot. Today, boring-vanilla Americans are forced to atone for crimes committed before they were born. Radically different levels of violence; same underlying class-warfare principle.
And we still haven't come to the main point. Many white male job-seekers have faced aggressive state-enforced bigotry their whole lives. It doesn't matter much to a Washington wiseguy, left or right, if firemen in New Haven (whites and Hispanics) pass a test for promotion that is peremptorily thrown in the trash after the fact because no blacks scored high enough. Who cares? It hardly matters if a white child and a black child of equal intelligence study equally hard, get equally good grades and recommendations—and the black kid gets into college X but the white kid doesn't. Who would vote for a president based on that kind of trivia? This sort of corruption never bothers rich or well-educated families. There's always room at the top. But such things do matter to many citizens of this country, who are in the bad habit of expecting honesty and fairness from the institutions that define our society, and who don't have quite as many fancy, exciting opportunities as the elect families of the p.c. true believers. In analyzing Trump, Washington misses the point, is staggeringly wide of the point. Only Trump has the common sense to mention the elephant in the room. Naturally he is winning.
Why, by the way, was Trump alone honored by a proposal in the British Parliament that he be banned from the country? Something about Trump drives Europeans crazy. Not the things that drive me crazy: his slandering John McCain, mocking a disabled reporter, revealing no concept of American foreign policy, repeating that ugly lie about George W. Bush supposedly tricking us into war with Iraq. The British don't care about such things one way or the other — they are used to American vulgarians. But a man who attacks political correctness is attacking the holy of holies, the whole basis of governance in Europe, where galloping p.c. is the established religion—and has been effective for half a century at keeping the masses quiet so their rulers can arrange everybody's life properly. Europe never has been comfortable with democracy.
The day Obama was inaugurated, he might have done a noble thing. He might have delivered an inaugural address in which he said: This nation used to be guilty of race prejudice, but today I can tell you that there is no speck of race prejudice in any corner of the government or the laws of this country, and that is an amazing achievement of which every American ought to be deeply proud. An individual American here or there is racist; but that's his right in a free country; if he commits no crime, let him think and say what he likes. But I know and you know, and the whole world knows, that the overwhelming majority of Americans has thoroughly, from the heart, renounced race prejudice forever. So let's have three cheers for our uniquely noble nation—and let's move on tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.
But he didn't.
Worst of all its crimes is what invasive leftism has done to our schools. Trump's unprivileged, unclassy supporters understand that their children are filled full of leftist bile every day at school and college. These parents don't always have the time or energy to set their children straight. But they are not stupid. They know what is going on.
Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Carson — even Kasich — could slam thought-police liberalism in every speech. They'd concede that Trump was right to bring the issue forward. Their own records are perfectly consistent with despising political correctness. It's just that they lacked the wisdom or maybe the courage to acknowledge how deep this corruption reaches into America's soul. It's not too late for them to join him in exposing this cancer afflicting America's spirit, the malign and ferocious arrogance of p.c.
David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization. Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be.
Time to admit a mistake. Johannes Argentus comments and I respond (in blue):
"To get a feel for how there might (epistemic use of 'might') be a trumping or suspension of the moral/ethical, consider the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. This is an example of what could be called 'trumping from above.' On Dylan's telling, God said to Abraham: "Kill me a son!" But Isaac was innocent and in killing him Abraham would be violating God's own Fifth Commandment. Had Abraham slaughtered his son he could not have justified it in terms of the moral code of the Decalogue; nor can I imagine any consequentialist line of moral reasoning that could have justified it; but he could have justified it non-morally by saying that God commanded him to sacrifice his son and that he was obeying the divine command. If God is absolutely sovereign, then he is sovereign over the moral code as the source of its existence, its content and its obligatoriness. He is outside of it, not subject to it; it is rather subject to him and his omnipotent will. We are in the vicinity of something like Kierkegaard's "teleological suspension of the ethical" as conveyed in Fear and Trembling."
The key factor for a correct understanding of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is the timing of the event with relation to God’s gradual revelation, and with relation to human reason’s gradual illumination and liberation, by God’s word, from the darkness into which it had fallen since the time of original sin.
According to the timing of the event with relation to God’s gradual revelation, there was no problem in God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son because it was centuries before He decreed the prohibition of human sacrifices in the Law given through Moses (Deut 18:10). Thus the command did not contradict any positive divine law known by Abraham.
BV: Excellent criticism. I mistakenly ignored the proper sequence of Biblical events. Contrary to what I suggested, God was not putting Abraham in a situation where he had a non-moral reason to override a known divine absolute moral command. Nevertheless, in commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac God was commanding an absolutely immoral act. The act-type -- slaughtering an innocent human being -- was no less ojectively immoral for being unknown to Abraham.
And according to the timing of the event with relation to human reason’s gradual liberation from darkness, there was no problem either because that process was just starting, and Abraham lived within a culture in which it was a common practice to sacrifice the firstborn son to the personal or local god. Thus the command did not contradict the clouded knowledge that Abraham had of natural law.
The command, then, was not a case of 'trumping from above' a rationally discovered or divinely revealed moral commandment, because Abraham was not aware of any such commandment forbidding the sacrifice of his firstborn, which in his cultural environment was a fairly common practice.
BV: Argentus is right.
Neither does the command necessarily show that God is arbitrarily sovereign over the moral code, which would be the case only if the event had taken place after the revelation of the Decalogue. Rather, the event is wholly dependent on Abraham's (and his contemporaries') state of ignorance regarding moral law and more broadly the meaning of life, which required the establishment of the only base on which the whole edifice could be built: absolute trust and obedience to Absolute Being.
Thus, the pedagogical and "that-time-only" nature of the event is fully consistent with the notion that moral law is inherent to human nature and therefore fully determined once human nature is, so that the acts forbidden by the Ten Commandments are not morally bad because they are forbidden, but rather they are forbidden because they are bad, because they are against human nature. Thus, God is absolutely sovereign to design human nature (except of course for logical contradictions), but once designed, He cannot contradict the moral law inherent in that nature because He cannot contradict Himself. Moral design is already in the ontological design.
BV: Whatever the solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma, it remains the case that God commanded Abraham to do something objectively immoral, even if Abraham did not know it was immoral or believed it was not immoral.