. . . so that events like yesterday's massacre in Paris never happen again.
Yes, I am being sarcastic, and doubly so. First, stricter gun laws would have had no effect on yesterday's events. Second, the silly phrase "so that it never happens again," beloved of politicians, insults our intelligence and erodes their credibility even further.
Am I being 'insensitive'? Damn straight I am. And you should be too. 'Sensitivity' is for squishy bien-pensant liberals whose specialty is gushing and emoting rather than thinking. It is something for the 'safe space' girly-girls, whether female, male, or neuter, to demand of the sane.
Liberals love laws, but not the enforcement of laws. Legislating is easy, enforcement is hard. Enforcement leads to incarceration and then to the 'mass incarceration' of certain populations. And we can't have 'mass incarceration' can we?
How about a little common sense? I'd have to check, but I'll guess that France has laws against the smuggling of Kalashnikovs and other 'assault weapons.' Well, how about enforcing those laws?
How about a review of French immigration policy? Radical Islam is the paramount threat to civilization at the present time. Of course, not every Muslim is a terrorist. But the more Muslims you let in, the more terrorists you will have to contend with. And it wouldn't take many to bring a city or a nation to a screeching halt. (See How to Destroy a City in Five Minutes)
Am I blaming the victims? Damn straight I'm blaming the victims. And you should too. While the lion's share of the responsibility obvious lies with the jihadis, politically correct Frenchmen who refuse to face the reality of the Islamist threat must bear some responsibility. Blaming the victim is perfectly legitimate within certain limits. I have made this case in an earlier post
Given that the ubiquity of crosses all across this great land has not yet established Christianity as the state religion, why, as it declines in influence, do the cruciphobic shysters of the ACLU and their ilk agitate still against these harmless and mostly merely historical remnants of a great religion?
There is an old saying which is perhaps now out-of-date. If liberals took the Second Amendment as seriously as they take the First, they would demand that gun ownership be mandatory. The point of the jibe was to highlight the absurd extremes to which liberals take the First Amendment.
But now the First Amendment is under vicious assault, by contemporary liberals no less, while university administrators and professors, in abdication of authority, stand idly by or allow themselves to be driven out of office.
Curiously, this assault on the First is yet another powerful argument for the Second.
The following just over the transom from 'Jacques' with responses in blue from BV:
I read your blog every day. Quite apart from the high level philosophizing, it's a rare bit of political sanity and rationality and decency. Academic philosophy is now thoroughly controlled by the most evil and insane factions of the Left. It's good to know that real philosophy, and real political philosophy in particular, is still alive in the hearts and minds of some individual people, even though the philosophical institutions are dead or hopelessly corrupt. Thank you!
BV: You're very welcome. I am happy to have you as a reader and correspondent. While academic philosophy is not thoroughly controlled by the Left, not yet anyway, you are not far from the truth.
"... As Socrates explains in Plato's Crito, we are what we are because of the laws. Our country and its laws have overseen our nurturance, our education, and the forming of our characters. We owe a debt of gratitude to our country, its laws, those who have worked to maintain and defend it, and especially those who have died in its defense."
This argument (if it's valid) must have a suppressed premise. The premise must be something like the following: "It is good that we are what we are", or "Some of the features of our characters that are due to our country and its laws are features for which we should be grateful".
BV: Right, that tacit assumption is in play, and without it the argument is invalid.
Of course, the inference would only be valid given some further assumptions, e.g., that our country and its laws have not also caused us to have other features that are so bad or regrettable that, all things considered, it would be reasonable to wish that our characters hadn't been shaped by our country and its laws in any way.
BV: I agree.
But in any case, I don't think that these suppressed premises are true. Not if they are meant to support the conclusion that, in general, patriotism is good--let alone that, in general, it is a virtue.
If my character was shaped by my experiences growing up in Maoist China, say, then it seems entirely possible that most or all of the features of myself that I came to have as a result of those experiences are bad. Or they might be features that just have no particular value or disvalue. At any rate there seems to be no reason to expect that, for any arbitrary person whose character was formed by any arbitrary country or legal system, the relevant features will be such that, on balance, this person ought to be grateful for whatever it was that caused him to have these features. To be sure, those who were lucky to have been formed within good countries or good legal institutions should probably be patriotic, for the kind of reason that Socrates gave; but this is not to say that patriotism in general is a duty or a virtue or even a good thing in any respect.
BV: Your critique up to this point is a good one and I accept it. I take you to be saying that I have not given a good argument for the thesis that in general patriotism is a good thing. For whether it is good or not will depend on the particular patria, the particular country, and its laws, institutions, and traditions. Presumably, citizens of North Korea, Cuba, Nazi Germany, and the USSR ought not be or ought not have been patriotic. But much depends on what the object of patriotism is. What exactly is that which one loves and is loyal to when one is patriotic? More on this below.
I would suggest that there is no basis for healthy patriotism beyond the fact that my country is MY country. The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine. Not that, in being mine, it has shaped my character. Not that its laws are better than others, or that they encode certain 'propositions' which a rational being should believe, or anything like that. But if this is right, the proper object of healthy patriotism is not a country in the sense that you seem to have in mind, i.e., a government or set of political or legal arrangements or traditions. Because that kind of thing is not really mine, in any deep sense, and because that kind of thing is not something I can love or feel loyalty towards. So if this suggestion is right, the proper object is my 'country' in the sense of the concrete land and people, not the state or its laws. (And this distinction seems especially important nowadays. You would not want to confuse the real America that Americans may properly love with the weird, sick, soft-totalitarian state that now occupies America.)
BV: You rightly appreciate that a proper discussion of this topic requires a careful specification of the object of patriotic love/loyalty. You say it is "the concrete land and people, not the state and its laws." Suppose I grant that for the nonce. Why should I love/be loyal to my country just because it is mine? That is not obvious, indeed it strikes me as false. I take you to be making two separate claims. The first is that one should display some patriotism toward one's country. This first claim is a presupposition of "The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine." The second claim is that that only reason for so doing is that the country is one's own.
But do you really want to endorse the first claim? Even if country = "concrete land and people," there are possible and perhaps also actual countries such that you wouldn't want to endorse the first claim. As for the second, if you endorse it, will you also say that the only reason you should be loyal to your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children, your friends, your clan, your neighborhood, your gang, and so on is because they are yours? Should you be true to your school only because it is the one you attend?
The above doesn't sound right. That a friend is my friend is not the only possible legitimate reason for my being loyal to him, assuming it is a legitimate reason at all. A second legitimate reason is that when I was in trouble he helped me. (And so on.) That my country (concrete land and people) is my country is not the only possible reason for my loving it and being loyal to it; other legitimate reasons are that the land is beautiful -- "purple mountain majesties from sea to shining sea" -- and that the people are self-reliant, hard-working, frugal, liberty-loving, etc., although how many of these people does one encounter theses days?
You write, "The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine." Do you intend the 'just' to express a biconditional relation? Are you proposing
1. One should have some loyalty for one's country or love for it if and only if it is one's own country
2. If one should have some loyalty for one's own country or love for it, then it is one's own country?
Is my country's being mine a necessary and sufficient condition of my legitimate patriotism, or only a necessary condition thereof? On a charitable reading, you are affirming (2).
What is a Country?
If patriotism is love of and loyalty to one's country, then we need to know what a country is. First of all, a country will involve
a. A geographical area, a land mass, with more or less definite boundaries or borders.
But this is not sufficient since presumably a country without people is no country in the sense of 'country' relevant to a definition of 'patriotism.' A backpacker may love the unpopulated backcountry of a wilderness area but such love of a chunk of the earth and its flora and (non-human) fauna is not patriotic love. So we add
b. Having a (human) population.
Are (a) and (b) jointly sufficient? I don't think so. Suppose you have a land mass upon which are dumped all sorts of different people of different races and religions, speaking hundreds of different languages, with wildly different habits and values and mores. That would not be a country in a sense relevant to a definition of 'patriotism.' It seems we must add
c. Sharing a common culture which will involve such elements as a common language, religion, tradition, history, 'national narrative,' heritage, a basic common understanding of what is right and wrong, a codification of this basic common understanding in law, and what all else.
I should think that each of (a), (b), and (c) are necessary to have a country. 'Jacques' apparently disagrees. He seems to be saying above that (a) and (b) are individually necessary and jointly sufficient. I say they are individually necessary but not jointly sufficient. I say further that the three conditions just specified are not jointly sufficient either, or not obviously jointly sufficient. For if the basic common understanding of right and wrong naturally evolves toward a codification and detailed articulation in written laws, then we are well on the way to 'the political.'
And isn't it obvious, or at least plausible, that if a country cannot exist without geographical borders, that these borders cannot be merely geographical in nature, but must also be political as well?
Take the Rio Grande. It is obviously not a social construct. It is a natural feature of the earth. But the southern border of the USA, its border with Mexico, is a social or socio-political construct. It is 'conventional' not 'natural.' The sorthern border might not have been the Rio Grande. But as things are, a river serves as the southern border.
My point is that, while a border must be naturally or physically realized by a river, or a coastline, or the crest of a mountain range, or by a wall or a fence (an electronic 'fence' would do) or whatever, borders are also political entities. Thus the Rio Grande is both a natural feature of the earth but also a political entity. And so what I want to say is that nothing can count as a country in the sense of 'country' relevant to a definition of 'patriotism' if it is not a political entity. Two countries bordering on each other cannot border on each other unless both are political entities.
Can I argue this out rigorously? I don't know. Let me take a stab at it.
A country is a continuant: it remains numerically the same over the period of time, however short, during which it exists. And while a country can gain or lose territory without prejudice to its diachronic numerical identity, it will cease to exist if it loses all its territory, or lets itself be invaded by foreigners to such an extent that its characteristic culture is destroyed (see point (c) above). So a country must defend its border if it wishes to stay in existence. But for the USA to defend its southern border is not for it to defend a river. It is to prevent non-citizens from crossing illegally into a country of which they are not a citizen. Am I begging the question? Perhaps. I'll have to think about it some more.
In any case it seems intuitively obvious to me that we need
d. Under the jurisdiction of a government.
But it is important to distinguish between a government and a particular administration of a government such as the Reagan administration or the Obama administration (regime?). Consider the bumper sticker:
What does 'government' mean here? It means either the current administration or some administrations, but presumably not every administration. It cannot mean the institutional structure, with its enabling documents such as the Constitution, which structure outlasts particular administrations. That is shown by the American flag above. What does it signify? Not the Nixon admin or the Obama admin. It signifies the ideals and values of America and the people who uphold them. Which values? Liberty and justice are named in the Pledge of Allegiance. But not social justice, or material equality (equality of outcome or result).
The person who would display a bumper sticker like the above does not fear the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or the institutional structure of the USA or the values and ideals it enshrines. Take a gander at this sticker:
Someone who displays this supports the U. S. Constitution and the Second Amendment thereto in particular. What he fears is not the U. S. government in its institutional structure; what he fears are gun-grabbing administrations. What he fears are lawless, hate-America, gun-grabbing, liberty-infringing, race-baiting leftists like Barack Obama and Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton.
In sum, I suggest that an adequate definition of 'country' must involve all of (a)-(d) supra. But this is a very difficult topic and I am no expert in political philosophy.
It is not uncommon to hear people confuse patriotism with jingoism. So let's spend a few moments this Veteran's Day reflecting on the difference.
Jingoism is well described by Robert Hendrickson as "bellicose chauvinism." But given the general level of culture, I am afraid I can't leave it at that, but must go on to explain 'chauvinism' and 'bellicose.' Chauvinism has nothing to do with sex or race. I have no objection to the phrases 'male chauvinism' or 'white chavinism,' the latter a term widely used in the 1950s in Communist Party USA circles; but the qualifiers are essential. Chauvinism, named after Nicholas Chauvin of Rochefort, an officer under Napoleon, is excessive nationalism. 'Bellicose' from the Latin word for war (bellum, belli) means warlike. So we get 'warlike excessive nationalism' as the definiens of 'jingoism.'
According to Henrickson, the term 'jingoism' originated from a refrain from the British music hall song "The Great MacDermott" (1878) urging Great Britain to fight the Russians and prevent them from taking Constantinople:
We don't want to fight, yet by Jingo if we do/ We've got the ships, we've got the men, and the money, too.
'By Jingo,' in turn, is a euphemism for 'by Jesus' that dates back to the later 17th century. (QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd ed. p. 395) So much for 'jingoism.' I think we are all going to agree that it is not a good thing.
Patriotism, however, is a good thing, a virtue. Like any virtue it is a means between two extremes. In this case, one of the extremes is excessive love of one's country, while the other is a deficiency of love for one's country. The patriot's love of his country is ordinate, within bounds. The patriot is neither a jingoist nor a neutralist. Both are anti-patriots. To confuse a patriot with a jingoist is like confusing a dissenter with a traitor. No doubt sometimes a jingoist or chauvinist will hide beneath the mantle of patriotism, but just as often a traitor will hide beneath the mantle of dissent. The patriot is also not a xenophobe since ordinate love of one's country does not entail hatred or fear of other countries and their inhabitants. Is patriotism, defined as the ordinate love of, and loyalty to, one's country justified?
Although it does not entail xenophobia, patriotism does imply a certain partiality to one's own country precisely because it is one's own. Is this partiality toward one's own country justifiable? If it is, then so is patriotism. As Socrates explains in Plato's Crito, we are what we are because of the laws. Our country and its laws have overseen our nurturance, our education, and the forming of our characters. We owe a debt of gratitude to our country, its laws, those who have worked to maintain and defend it, and especially those who have died in its defense.
Is Obama a patriot? Well, if you want fundamentally to transform your country, are you a patriot? Suppose you profess love of a girl and propose marriage to her, but only on condition that she undergo a fundamental transformation, physical, mental, moral and emotional. Can you be said to love her?
Leftists are consummate linguistic hijackers. I've been making this point since the inception of this weblog back in aught-four. I won't repeat my examples. It just now occurred to me that a useful tactic in the culture war might be the reverse hijacking of liberal-leftist lingo.
I have done this three times in the last few days without conscious subsumption under the italicized rubric.
Thus 'Black Lives Matter' gets twisted into 'Black Lies Matter' to highlight the fact that the distortions, falsehoods, and outright lies of many blacks and their liberal-left enablers get people killed, mostly blacks, and undermine the rule of law.
'Safe space' and 'trigger warning' are easily mocked as I did a few hours ago.
All's fair in love and war, and this is a war, muchachos. Make no mistake about it. The behavior of leftists shows that they see it as a war, as witness their relentless smearing of Dr. Ben Carson. They practice without scruple the politics of personal destruction. They did it to Sarah Palin in an especially vile manner, and to Herman Cain. If they see politics as a war, we can't see it as a gentlemanly debate. Mockery and derision are potent weapons as Saul Alinsky recognized and they must be employed to attack the enemies of the republic and to energize those who, for whatever reason, are impermeable to calm and learned disquisitions.
But you must also have rigorous arguments and calm disquisitions at the ready for those who are capable of processing them.
Loaded with double-aught buckshot, the instrument of home defense depicted below has the power to separate the soul from the body in a manner most definitive. Just showing this bad boy to a would-be home invader is a most effective way to issue a 'trigger warning' in a reality-based sense of that phrase.
But let Uncle Bill give you a piece of friendly advice. You really don't want to have to shoot anyone. No matter how worthless the scumbag, he is some mother's son and a bearer, somewhere deep inside under a load of corruption, of the imago Dei. Taking a human life must always be the last resort, and this for moral, legal, prudential, and psychological reasons. You should aspire to die a virgin in this regard, assuming you are still 'intact.'
So here's my advice. Secure your home so that the miscreants cannot get in. That's Job One.
And of course never, ever, vote for criminal-coddling, criminal-releasing and gun-grabbing Democrats or liberals and always speak out loudly, proudly, and publicly for your Second Amendment rights. It is the Second that is the real-world back-up of the First and the others.
I'm sure you've heard a lot about the Mizzou [University of Missouri] protests so I'll spare you the details. But one particular debate caught my eye. Some of these student protesters claimed that the press has no right to photograph them because to do such is an intrusion on their privacy (obviously the press has a legal right to do such). Some people respond by saying that since Mizzou is a public space (it's a public university) you have no right to privacy in public spaces. But of course you still have some right to privacy in public areas (the right not to have your person searched without a warrant, the right to use a bathroom without people watching, etc.) So what are the moral grounds (as opposed to the legal grounds) for saying that the press should have unrestricted access to photograph things in plain view in public spaces?
Protests and demonstrations occur in public, and for good reason: the whole point is to make public one's concerns. So there is something deeply paradoxical about protesters who object to being photographed or televised. It is paradoxical to go public with one's protest and then object to reporters and other people who give you publicity. It is incoherent to suppose that a space in which one is noisily protesting and perhaps disrupting normal goings-on can be a 'safe space' into which the public at large cannot intrude, even at a distance, with cameras and such.
Paradox and incoherence aside, the protesters have no moral right not to be photographed given that they have occupied and disturbed the peace of public spaces. Does the press have the unrestricted moral right to photograph things in plain view in public spaces? No, not an unrestricted right. But surely they have the right to photograph what is in plain view in a public place if the ones photographed are protesting or demonstrating whether peacefully or violently.
Suppose a couple are enjoying a tête-à-tête under a tree in the quad. Does a roving photog have the moral right to snap a photo? I say No. He has a moral obligation not to do such a thing without permission. So I would say that is not just a question of good manners, but a question of morality.
This entry supplements the earlier entry on what Wittgenstein in the Tractatus calls the metaphysical subject. (5.633)
As I read him, Wittgenstein accepts Hume's famous rejection of the self as an object of experience or as a part of the world. "There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas." (5.631) The reason Wittgenstein gives is that, if he were to write a book called The World as I Found it in which he inventories the objects of experience, he would make mention of his body and its parts, but not of the subject of experience: "for it alone could not be mentioned in that book." The argument is similar to the one we find in Hume: the subject that thinks is not encountered as an object of experience.
But why not? Because it doesn't exist, or because the subject of experience, by its very nature as subject, cannot be an actual or possible object of experience? It has to be the latter for Wittgenstein since he goes on to say at 5.632 that "The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world." So he is not denying that there is a subject; he is telling us what it is, namely, the limit of the world. His thesis is not eliminativist, but identitarian.
From the fact that the metaphysical subject is nowhere in the world, it does not follow that it does not exist. If, however, you think that this is a valid inference, then you would also have to think that from the non-appearance of one's eyes in one's visual field one could validly infer the nonexistence of one's eyes.
As 5.6331 asserts, one's eyes are not in one's visual field. If you say that they can be brought into one's visual field by the use of a mirror, I will point out that seen eyes are not the same as seeing eyes, a point on which I 'dilate' in detail in the earlier entry.
The analogy is clear to me. Just as one's eyes are not in one's visual field, visual consciousness of objects in the world is not itself in the world. Visual consciousness, and consciousness generally, is of the world, not in it, to reverse the New Testament verse in which we are enjoined to be in the world, but not of it. (Needless to say, I am reversing the words, not the sense of the NT saying. And note that the first 'of' is a genitivus objectivus while the second is a genitivus subjectivus.)
Of course, this is not to say that there is a substantial self, a Cartesian res cogitans outside the world. "The world is all that is the case." There is nothing outside it. And of course Wittgenstein is not saying that there are soul substances or substantial selves in the world. Nor is he saying that there is a substantial self at the limit of the world. He is saying that there is a metaphysical (better: transcendental) self and that it is the limit of world. He is stretching the notion of self about as far as it can be stretched, in the direction of a radically externalist, anti-substantialist notion of consciousness, which is later developed by Sartre and Butchvarov.
What we have here is the hyper-attenuation of the Kantian transcendental ego, which is itself an attenuation of substantialist notions of the ego. The Tractarian Wittgenstein is a transcendental philosopher. He may not have read much or any Kant, but he knew the works of the Kantian, Schopenhauer, and was much influenced by them. According to P. M. S. Hacker,
Of the five main philosophical influences on Wittgenstein, Hertz, Frege, Russell, Schopenhauer, and perhaps Brouwer, at least three were deeply indebted to Kant. It is therefore not surprising that Wittgenstein's philosophy bears deepest affinities to Kant's, despite the fact he never studied Kant . . . ." (Insight and Illusion, 139)
Now to Butchvarov. He writes that his picture and Wittgenstein's share "the rejection of the metaphysical self and thus of subjectivism in all its forms." (Anthropocentrism in Philosophy, Walter de Gruyter, 2015, p. 235) A few pages earlier we read, "Hume in effect denied that there is what Wittgenstein was to call 'the philosophical self' or 'the metaphysical subject'." (226)
Here is where I disagree. While it is certainly true that both Hume and Wittgenstein reject the substantial self of Descartes and of the pre-Critical rational psychologists, Wittgenstein does not reject the metaphysical/transcendental subject. Nor should he, even if he accepts Hume's argument from the non-appearance of the self. For the metaphysical self, as the limit of the world, is not an object in the world and so cannot be expected to appear in the world. Its non-appearance is no argument against it.
That Wittgenstein does not reject the metaphysical/transcendental subject is also clear from Wittgenstein's claim at 5.641 that "there is a sense in which philosophy can talk about the self in a non-psychological way" without, I may add, lapsing into a physiological or naturalistic way of talking about it. He goes on to reiterate that the "philosophical self" is not the human body or the human soul, and therefore no part of the world. It is the "metaphysical subject," the limit of the world.
What I am maintaining, then, in apparent contradiction to Butchvarov, is that, while Wittgenstein rejects the substantial ego of Descartes, he does not reject "the metaphysical subject" or "the philosophical self."
There is a serious substantive issue here, however, one that may tell against Butchvarov's solution to the Paradox of Antirealism. (See article referenced below.)
Why call this philosophical self or metaphysical subject a self if it only a limit? Can a limit be conscious of anything? Why should the self be a philosophical as opposed to a psychological or neurophysiological topic? How does the self get into philosophy? Must the self get into philosophy for antirealism to get off the ground? "What brings the self into philosophy is the fact that 'the world is my world'." (5.641) This harks back to the opening antirealist sentence of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation: "The world is my representation." Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung. The world is my world because, tautologically, the only world for me is my world. The only world for me as subject is the world as object. As Butchvarov puts it, though without reference to Schopenhauer, "The tautology is that the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us." (231) This is the gist of what the great pessimist says on the first page of WWR. (Whether it is indeed a tautology needs to be carefully thought through. Or rather, whether it can be both a tautology and a statement of antirealism needs to be thought through. I don't think it can be both as I will argue in a moment.)
Now the possessive pronoun 'my' is parasitic upon the the first-person pronoun 'I' which refers to the self. So my world is the the world thinkable and cognizable by me, by the I which is no more in the 'consciousness field,' the world of objects, than the seeing eye is in the visual field. How can my world be mine without this transcendental I? And if you send the transcendental I packing, what is left of antirealism?
Are we headed for a dilemma? It seems we are.
1. Either (a) antirealism boils down to the tautological thesis that "the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us" (231) or (b) it does not. Please note that the quoted thesis is indeed a tautology. But it is a further question whether it can be identified with a nonvacuous thesis of antirealism. (And surely antirealism must be nonvacuous to be worthy of discussion.) While it is a tautology that the only cats I see are the cats I see, this is consistent with both the realist thesis that cats exist independently of anyone's seeing and the antirealist thesis that their existence is just the indefinite identifiability of cat-noemata by a perceiver.
2. If (a), then antirealism 'says nothing' and does not exclude realism. It is a vacuous thesis. For example, it does not exclude a representational realism according to which there is a world that exists in itself, a world that includes beings like us who represent the world in various ways more or less adequately and whose representations are representations of what, in itself, is not a representation.
3. If (b), and antirealism is to have any non-tautological 'bite,' it must imply that the world is in some respect dependent on a self or selves other than it. But then the "philosophical self" or "metaphysical subject" cannot be either a mere limit of the world as Wittgenstein says or nonexistent as Butchvarov implies. It must be a part of the world. But this leaves us with the Paradox of Antirealism. For it conflicts with what Butchvarov considers "self-evident," namely, that in the context of the realism-antirealism debate, "we cannot coherently regard ourselves as a part, mental (an ego, a colony of egos) or material (a brain, a collection of brains), of that world." (231)
4. Antirealism is either vacuous or incoherent. It is vacuous if a tautology. For then it cannot exclude realism. It is incoherent if not a tautology. For then it succumbs to the Paradox of Antirealism.
What Butchvarov wants is a "metaphysics that is antirealist but not anthropocentric." (231) It is not clear to me that he can have both antirealism and non-anthropocentrism. Antirealism cannot get off the ground as a substantive, non-tautological thesis in metaphysics without a self or selves on which the world depends (in some respects, not necessarily all). But the price for that is anthropocentrism in Butchvarov's broad use of that term. He opposes (rightly!) making the world dependent on physical proper parts thereof, but also making it dependent on purely mental/spiritual proper parts and presumably also a divine proper part
One can of course attenuate the subject, retreating from brain to psyche, to transcendental ego, to limit of the world, to a self that shrinks to a point without extension (5.64), to a Sartrean wind blowing towards objects which is, as Sartre says, nothing -- but at the limit of this attenuation one arrives at something so thin and next-to-nothing as to be incapable of supporting a robust antirealism.
Questions for Professor Butchvarov
1. Do you agree with me that, while Wittgenstein rejects the Cartesian-type ego that Hume rejects, he does not reject what he calls "the metaphysical subject" and "the philosophical self"?
2. Do you agree with me that, for Wittgenstein, the metaphysical subject construed as limit of the world, exists, is not nothing?
3. Do you agree with me that, while "the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us" (231) is plainly a tautology, it is a further question whether this tautology is the thesis of antirealism that is debated by philosophers? (As opposed to a thesis of antirealism that you have arbitrarily stipulated.)
4. Do you agree with me that the above quoted tautology is logically consistent with both realism and antirealism?
5. Do you agree that rather than solving the Paradox of Antirealism, you dissolve it by eliminating the subject of consciousness entirely?
6. Suppose I grant you that there are no egos, no acts, and that consciousness-of is non-relational along the lines of Sartre's radically externalist, anti-substantialist theory of consciousness. Will you grant me that the distinction -- the 'Transcendental Difference' if you will -- between subjectless consciousness-of and objects is ineliminable and undeniable?
7. If you grant me that, will you grant me that the non-relational appearing of objects does not itself appear?
8. If you grant what I want you to grant in (7) will you grant that something can be real without appearing, without 'showing up' phenomenologically?
9. If you grant me what I want you to grant in (8) will you grant that, if something can be real without appearing, that the transcendental ego and acts can also be real without appearing?
To put it another way, if you hold that there are no egos and acts on the ground that they do not appear, must you not also maintain that there is no nonrelational consciousness-of on the ground that it does not appear?
It began in the universities in the '60s. And now it is in full 'flower.' I recall Dennis Prager putting it this way: "There is no coward like a university administrator." Now hear David French:
Fortunately for the radicals, our universities are populated by the craven and the cowardly. Push a professor, even slightly, and it’s likely he’ll fold. Demand faculty support for your protest, and dozens will rush to join, self-righteously advancing their own false oppression narratives even as they enjoy lives billions of others would covet. There is nothing brave about these people. They are not “elite.” They don’t deserve a single dime of taxpayer money or one cent of student tuition. They dishonor their schools and their country.
Closeted campus conservatives are worse than useless. Indeed, their very timidity contributes to the narrative that there is something shameful about their beliefs. To read anonymous letters from professors who are afraid to “out” themselves in a hostile campus culture is to read the sad dispatches of people too pitiful for their profession. Do something else, anything else, than merely sit and watch while the revolutionaries shred the Constitution, reject our culture, and assert their own will to power.
The true shame is that it doesn’t even require actual courage to defeat the university Left, just a tiny bit of will — a small measure of staying power. No one is shooting at trustees. No one is beheading professors. There’s no guillotine in the quad. Instead, campus “leaders” tremble before hashtags and weep at the notion of losing a football team so inept that it couldn’t score a touchdown through most of the month of October. Let them strike. With an offense that inept, the SEC won’t even notice.
These are the times that try men’s souls? No. These are the times of men without chests. The Left has the will to power. University leaders have no will at all. They have earned nothing but contempt.
An abstract with the above title has been making the rounds. No doubt you have seen it, so there is no need to link to it, nor does it deserve a link. It is almost certainly a joke, and if not, then the author is a fool. But since I have just made a harsh allegation, perhaps you should see for yourself.
There have always been crises. Human history is just one crisis after another. The 20th Century was a doosy: two world wars, economic depression, the rise of unspeakably evil totalitarian states, genocide, the nuclear annihilation of whole cities, the Cold War that nearly led to WWIII (remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962?), and then after the Evil Empire was quashed, the resurrection of radical Islam. Should we conclude that philosophy has never been justified? But then science has never been justified and much of the rest of what we consider high culture. For they have their origin in philosophy.
Perhaps you don't agree with my 'origins' claim. Still, plenty in life is of value regardless of its utility in mitigating whatever crisis happens to be in progress. Or do you think Beethoven should have been a social worker?
A Pew survey last year found that 75 percent of Republicans believed it is more important to "protect the right of Americans to own guns" than to "control gun ownership."
This way of framing the issue shows left-wing bias. For it implies that Republicans are opposed to controlling gun ownership. But that is not the case. Almost everyone wants gun control laws some of which will regulate the acquisition and ownership of firearms. Name me a Republican who thinks that felons should be allowed to purchase firearms.
Either gun rights or gun control is a false alternative.
The point, once again, is that language matters. He who controls the terms of the debate controls the debate. You should always be on the lookout for linguistic mischief. Liberals excel at it, but there are examples across the political spectrum.
Part of my self-imposed task in these pages is to teach critical thinking.
Much as I disagree with Daniel Dennett on most matters, I agree entirely with what he says in the following passage:
I deplore the narrow pragmatism that demands immediate social utility for any intellectual exercise. Theoretical physicists and cosmologists, for instance, may have more prestige than ontologists, but not because there is any more social utility in the satisfaction of their pure curiosity. Anyone who thinks it is ludicrous to pay someone good money to work out the ontology of dances (or numbers or opportunities) probably thinks the same thing about working out the identity of Homer or what happened in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang. (Dennett and His Critics, ed. Dahlbom, Basil Blackwell 1993, p. 213. Emphasis in original.)
I would put the point in stronger terms and go Dennett one better. Anyone who thinks that intellectual inquiry has value only if it has immediate or even long-term social utility is not only benighted, but is also a potential danger to free inquiry.
One of my favorite examples is complex numbers. A complex number involves a real factor and an imaginary factor i, where i= the square root of -1. Thus a complex number has the form, a + bi where a is the real part and bi is the imaginary part.
One can see why the term 'imaginary' is used. The number 1 has two square roots, 1 and -1 since if you square either you get 1. But what is the square root of -1? It can't be 1 and it can't be -1, since either squared gives a positive number. So the imaginary i is introduced as the square root of -1. Rather than say that negative numbers do not have square roots, mathematicians say that they have complex roots. Thus the square root of -9 = 3i.
Now to the practical sort of fellow who won't believe in anything that he can't hold in his hands and stick in his mouth, this all seems like idle speculation. He demands to know what good it is, what it can used for. Well, the surprising thing is is that the theory of complex numbers which originated in the work of such 16th century Italian mathematicians as Cardano(1501 - 1576) and Bombelli (1526-1572) turned out to find application to the physical world in electrical engineering. The electrical engineers use j instead of i because i is already in use for current.
Just one example of the application of complex numbers is in the concept of impedance. Impedance is a measure of opposition to a sinusoidal electric current. Impedance is a generalization of the concept of resistance which applies to direct current circuits. Consider a simple direct current circuit consisting of a battery, a light bulb, and a rheostat (variable resistor). Ohm's Law governs such circuits: I = E/R. If the voltage E ('E' for electromotive force) is constant, and the resistance R is increased, then the current I decreases causing the light to become dimmer. The resistance R is given as a real number. But the impedance of an alternating current circuit is given as a complex number.
Now what I find fascinating here is that the theory of complex numbers, which began life as something merely theoretical, turned out to have application to the physical world. One question in the philosophy of mathematics is: How is this possible? How is it possible that a discipline developed purely a priori can turn out to 'govern' nature? It is a classical Kantian question, but let's not pursue it.
My point is that the theory of complex numbers, which for a long time had no practical (e.g., engineering) use whatsoever, and was something of a mere mathematical curiosity, turned out to have such a use. Therefore, to demand that theoretical inquiry have immediate social utility is shortsighted and quite stupid. For such inquiry might turn how to be useful in the future.
But even if a branch of inquiry could not possibly have any application to the prediction and control of nature for human purposes, it would still have value as a form of the pursuit of truth. Truth is a value regardless of any use it may or may not have.
Social utility is a value. But truth is a value that trumps it. The pursuit of truth is an end in itself. Paradoxically, the pursuit of truth as an end in itself may be the best way to attain truth that is useful to us.
Voter ID laws have been challenged because liberal Democrats deem them racist. I guess that’s because they see blacks as being incapable of acquiring some kind of government-issued identification. Interesting enough is the fact that I’ve never heard of a challenge to other ID requirements as racist, such as those: to board a plane, open a charge account, have lab work done or cash a welfare check. Since liberal Democrats only challenge legal procedures to promote ballot-box integrity, the conclusion one reaches is that they are for vote fraud prevalent in many Democrat-controlled cities.
I have been saying the above for years. But what I hadn't noticed was the following:
There is another area where the attack on ballot-box integrity goes completely unappreciated. We can examine this attack by looking at the laws governing census taking. As required by law, the U.S. Census Bureau is supposed to count all persons in the U.S. Those to be counted include citizens, legal immigrants and non-citizen long-term visitors. The law also requires that illegal immigrants be a part of the decennial census. The estimated number of illegal immigrants ranges widely from 12 million to 30 million. Official estimates put the actual number closer to 12 million.
Both citizens and non-citizens are included in the census and thus affect apportionment counts. Counting illegals in the census undermines one of the fundamental principles of representative democracy — namely, that every citizen-voter has an equal voice. Through the decennial census-based process of apportionment, states with large numbers of illegal immigrants, such as California and Texas, unconstitutionally gain additional members in the U.S. House of Representatives thereby robbing the citizen-voters in other states of their rightful representation.
The phenomenal Edward Feser. How does he do it? He teaches an outrageous number of courses at a community college, five per semester; he has written numerous books; he gives talks and speeches, and last time I checked he has six children. Not to mention his weblog which is bare of fluff and filler and of consistently high quality.
He writes with clarity, style, and wit, and you don't want to end up on the wrong end of his polemics, as Lawrence Krauss did recently who got himself deservedly tagged by Ed as a "professional amateur philosopher."
Ed is an embodiment of one of the truths of Quine's essay Paradoxes of Plenty, namely, that a paucity of free time is not inimical to productivity.
Ed's latest collects 16 recent essays in the areas of philosophy of nature, natural theology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. Start with "The Road from Atheism," his intellectual autobiography.
You can get the book from Amazon for a paltry $19.02. Amazon blurb:
In a series of publications over the course of a decade, Edward Feser has argued for the defensibility and abiding relevance to issues in contemporary philosophy of Scholastic ideas and arguments, and especially of Aristotelian-Thomistic ideas and arguments. This work has been in the vein of what has come to be known as “analytical Thomism,” though the spirit of the project goes back at least to the Neo-Scholasticism of the period from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. Neo-Scholastic Essays collects some of Feser’s academic papers from the last ten years on themes in metaphysics and philosophy of nature, natural theology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. Among the diverse topics covered are: the relationship between Aristotelian and Newtonian conceptions of motion; the varieties of teleological description and explanation; the proper interpretation of Aquinas’s Five Ways; the impossibility of a materialist account of the human intellect; the philosophies of mind of Kripke, Searle, Popper, and Hayek; the metaphysics of value; the natural law understanding of the ethics of private property and taxation; a critique of political libertarianism; and the defensibility and indispensability to a proper understanding of sexual morality of the traditional “perverted faculty argument.”
K. G. presents me with what he calls a conceivability argument against metaphysical idealism:
Let P denote the proposition "I have a body." Then the argument would take the form
1. P is conceivable.
2. If P is conceivable, then P is possible.
3. If P is possible, then metaphysical idealism is false.
Therefore, metaphysical idealism is false.
Premise 1 is uncontroversial because I can see what I consider to be my body, and thus I can form a mental image of it. Premise 3 merely follows from the definition of idealism. Premise 2 is the most controversial, but I think that replacing "conceivable" with "imaginable" will avoid all difficulties associated with this premise. I may be able to conceive of a triangle which is neither isoceles nor scalene, but I cannot imagine one.
What do you think?
I have two objections.
1. You appreciate that there is a problem with validating the inferential move from 'x is conceivable' to 'x is possible.' But you think the move from 'x is imaginable' to 'x is possible' is unproblematic. I disagree. Suppose we agree that 'x is imaginable' means 'There is a human person who has the ability to form a mental image of x.' If this is what we mean by 'imaginable,' then all sorts of things are imaginable that are not possible. For example, I have just now formed the mental image of an ordinary tire iron floating in ordinary water. But this is not a nomologically possible state of affairs: it is ruled out by the (logically contingent) laws of nature.
You need to be careful not to confuse the image with what the image is of or about. The image of floating iron is of course an actual image and therefore a possible image. The question, however, is whether what the image depicts is possible. The mere fact that one can form a mental image of x does not show that x is possible. For the image of x is not x.
To this you might respond that you have in mind broadly logical possibility, not nomological possibility. Take a gander at this M.C. Escher drawing:
What you see is an object of visual perception, but you could imagine the hands easily enough, as presumably Escher himself did before he made the drawing. What the image is of, however, is broadly logically impossible. Two right hands are depicted each of which comes into existence by being drawn by the other.
But apart from examples, why should possibility be tied to what we can conceive or imagine? Our powers of conception and imagination are limited. Besides, if I have the power to imagine such-and-such, then it must be possible that I imagine such-and-such in which case it would be circular to explain possibility in terms of imaginability.
2. Philosophers are not in the business of denying obvious facts. It is an obvious fact that I have a body. It follows straightaway that it is possible that I have a body. But this possibility does not refute idealism. For the obvious fact that there are bodies can be interpreted both realistically and idealistically. A metaphysical idealist such as Berkeley does not deny that there are bodies; he proffers a theory as to what bodies are in their ontological structure. At ontological bottom there are only minds and ideas in the Berkeleyan system, with physical things construed as collections of ideas. His line on bodies is not nihilist or eliminativist, but reductivist: bodies reduce to collections of ideas. For this reason I would reject your premise (3).
It has been over fifty years now since the landmark civil rights and welfare legislation of the 1960s, an example of which is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But blacks are still not doing very well. Why? There is an explanation below the fold. But I must issue a 'trigger warning' to the PC-whipped. The opinions of the author may cause grave psychic distress. If you venture below you and you alone accept full responsibility for your distress. DO NOT go there if you identify as liberal, leftist, progressive, socialist, Maoist, as politically correct or (what may be the same thing) if you are opposed to free inquiry, open discussion, free speech, and intellectual honesty.
Many of my sons’ teachers were trained at Columbia University’s Teachers College or the nearby Bank Street College of Education. At these citadels of progressivism, future educators were inculcated in the “child-centered” approach to classroom instruction. All children, in this view, were “natural learners” who—with just a little guidance from teachers—could “construct their own knowledge.” By the same token, progressive-ed doctrine considered it a grave sin for teachers to engage in direct instruction of knowledge (dismissed as “mere facts”). The traditional, content-based instruction that had worked so well for my generation of immigrant children from poor and working-class families was now dismissed as “drill-and-kill” teaching that robbed kids of their imagination. Progressives also rejected the old-fashioned American idea, going back to the Founders, that the nation’s schools should follow a coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum that not only included the three Rs but also introduced children to our civilizational inheritance.
I am tempted to explain just how wrong this is. But I will resist the temptation. If you are a regular reader of this weblog, then you don't need it explained to you. But if you are the sort of liberal who accepts the above claptrap, then you don't need explanations, you need treatment. Please seek it for your own good.
I take Wittgenstein to be saying at 5.63 that the seeing eye is not in the visual field. I can of course see my eyes via a mirror. But these are seen eyes, not seeing eyes. The eyes I see in the mirror are objects of visual consciousness; they are not what do the seeing.
That is not to say that the eyes I see in my visual field, whether the eyes of another person or my own eyes seen in a mirror, are dead eyes or non-functioning eyes. They are living eyes functioning as they should, supplied with blood, properly connected via the neural pathways to the visual cortex, etc. The point is that they are not seeing eyes, subjects of visual consciousness.
If you insist that seeing eyes are indeed objects of outer perception and empirical study, then I will challenge you to show me where the seeing occurs in the eye or where in the entire visual apparatus, which includes eyeglasses, contact lenses, the neural pathways leading from the optic nerve to the visual cortex -- the whole system which serves as the causal basis of vision. Where is the seeing? In the pupil? In the retina? In the optic nerve? Somewhere between the optic nerve and the brain? In the visual cortex?Where exactly? Will you say that it is in no particular place but in the whole system? But this is a very big system including as it does such instruments of vision as sunglasses and night goggles. And let's not leave out the external physical things that are causing certain wavelengths of light to impinge on the eye. And the light itself, and its source whether natural or artificial. Will you tell me that the SEEING is spread out in space over and through all of these items? But then how do you explain the unity of visual consciousness over time or at a time? And how do you explain the intentionality of visual consciousness? Does it make any sense to say that a state of the eyeball is of or about anything? If you say that the SEEING is in the eye or in the brain, then I will demand to know its electro-chemical properties.
I could go on, but perhaps you get the point: the seeing, the visual consciousness-of, is not itself seen or see-able. It is not an object of actual or possible experience. It is not in the world. It is not a part of the eye, or a state of the eye, or a property of the eye or a relation in which the eye stands or an activity of the eye. The same goes for the whole visual system. And yet there is seeing. There is visual consciousness, consciousness of visual objects.
Who or what does the seeing? What is the subject of visual consciousness? Should we posit a self or I or ego that uses the eye as an instrument of vision, so that it is the I that sees and not the eye? No one will say that his eyeglasses do the seeing when he sees something. No one says, "My eyeglasses saw a beautiful sunset last night." We no more say that than we say, "My optic nerve registered a beautiful sunset last night," or "My visual cortex saw a beautiful sunset last night."* We say, "I saw a beautiful sunset last night."
But then who or what is this I? It is no more in the world than the seeing eye is in the visual field. Wittgenstein's little balloon above depicts the visual field. Imagine a Big Balloon that depicts the 'consciousness field,' the totality of objects of consciousness. It does not matter if we think of it as a totality of facts or a totality of things. The I is not in it any more than the eye qua seeing is in the visual field.
So far I am agreeing with Wittgenstein. There is a subject, but it is not in the world. So it is somewhat appropriate to call it a metaphysical subject, although 'transcendental subject' would be a better choice of terms, especially since Wittgenstein says that it is the limit of the world. 'Transcendental' is here being used in roughly the Kantian way. 'Transcendental' does not mean transcendent in the phenomenological sense deriving from Husserl, nor does it mean transcendent in the absolute sense of classical metaphysics as when we say that God is a transcendent being. (That is why you should never say that God is a transcendental being.)
But Wittgenstein also maintains that the transcendental subject is the limit of the world. This implies, first, that it is not nothing, and second, that it is no thing or fact in the world. "The world is all that is the case." (1) "The world is the totality of facts, not of things." (1.1) It follows that the subject is not a thing or fact outside the world. So all the self can be is the limit of the world.
We have to distinguish the world from worldly things/facts. The world is a totality of things or facts, and a totality is distinct from its members both distributively and collectively. So we shouldn't conflate the world-as-totality with its membership (the world taken in extension). So if the metaphysical or rather transcendental subject is the limit of the world as per 5.632, then what this means is that the subject is the limit of worldly things/facts, and as such is the world-as-totality.
This is why Wittgenstein says "I am my world." (5.63)
I take it that Tractatus 5.63 is the central inspiration behind Butchvarov's solution to the Paradox of Antirealism which, in an earlier entry, I formulated as follows:
PA: On the one hand, we cannot know the world as it is in itself, but only the world as it is for us, as it is “shaped by our cognitive faculties, our senses and our concepts.” (189) This Kantian insight implies a certain “humanization of metaphysics.” (7) On the other hand, knowable physical reality cannot depend for its existence or intelligibility on beings that are miniscule parts of this reality. The whole world of space-time-matter cannot depend on certain of its fauna. (7)
The world cannot depend on me if I am a (proper) part of the world. But if "I am my world," then the problem would seem to dissolve. That, very roughly, is Butchvarov's solution.
The solution implies that the philosophical as opposed to the ordinary indexical uses of the first-person singular pronoun, those uses that figure into the Augustinian Si fallor sum, the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, the Kantian Das 'ich denke' muss alle meine Vortsellungen begleiten koennen, the Cartesian Meditations of Husserl, and the debate about realism and antirealism are really impersonal, despite what Augustine, Descartes, Kant, and Husserl think. For then the philosophical uses of 'I' refer to the world-as-totality and not to a person or to something at the metaphysical core of a person such as a noumenal self.
This notion that the philosophical uses of the personal pronoun 'I' are really impersonal is highly problematic, a point I will come back to.
*People do say things like: "My brain said, 'Stay away from her,' but my little head said, 'Go for it, man!'" Such talk is of course nonsense if taken literally.
Arthur C. Brooks deplores the lack of ideological diversity and the prevalence of 'groupthink' in academia in an October 30th NYT editorial entitled "Academia's Rejection of Diversity." He is of course right to do so. But this is nothing new as any conservative will tell you. And we don't need studies to know about it, which is not to say that studies are not of some slight use in persuading doubters.
What I would take issue with, though, is Brooks' apparently unqualified belief that "being around people [ideologically] unlike ourselves makes us [intellectually] better people . . . ." I have added, charitably I should think, a couple of qualifiers in brackets.
Interaction with ideological opponents can be fruitful, and sometimes is. That goes without saying.
But I think it is very easy to overestimate the value of interactions with people with fundamentally different views. It is a mistake to think that more and more 'conversations' will lead to amicable agreements and mutual understanding. This mistake is based on the false assumption that there is still common ground on which to hold these 'conversations.'
I say we need fewer 'conversations' and more voluntary separation. In many situations we need the political equivalent of divorce. In marriage as in politics the bitter tensions born of irreconcilable differences are relieved by divorce, not by attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable. Let's consider some examples. In each of these cases it is difficult to see what common ground the parties to the dispute occupy.
1. Suppose you hold the utterly abhorrent view that it is a justifiable use of state power to force a florist or a caterer to violate his conscience by providing services at, say, a same-sex 'marriage' ceremony.
2. Or you hold the appalling and ridiculous view that demanding photo ID at polling places disenfranchises those would-be voters who lack such ID.
3. Or you refuse to admit a distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
4. Or you maintain the absurd thesis that global warming is the greatest threat to humanity at the present time. (Obama)
6. Or, showing utter contempt for facts, you insist that Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was an 'unarmed black teenager' shot down like a dog in cold blood without justification of any sort by the racist cop, Darren Wilson.
7. Or you compare Ferguson and Baltimore as if they are relevantly similar. (Hillary Clinton)
8. Or you mendaciously elide distinctions crucial in the gun debate such as that between semi-auto and full-auto. (Dianne Feinstein)
9. Or you systematically deploy double standards. President Obama, for example, refuses to use 'Islamic' in connection with the Islamic State or 'Muslim' in connection with Muslim terrorists. But he has no problem with pinning the deeds of crusaders and inquisitors on Christians.
10. Or you mendaciously engage in self-serving anachronism, for example, comparing current Muslim atrocities with Christian ones long in the past.
11. Or you routinely slander your opponents with such epithets as 'racist,' 'sexist,' etc.
12. Or you make up words whose sole purpose is to serve as semantic bludgeons and cast doubt on the sanity of your opponents. You know full well that a phobia is an irrational fear, but you insist on labeling those who oppose homosexual practices as 'phobic' when you know that their opposition is in most cases rationally grounded and not based in fear, let alone irrational fear.
13. Or you bandy the neologism 'Islamophobia' as a semantic bludgeon when it is plain that fear of radical Islam is entirely rational. In general, you engage in linguistic mischief whenever it serves your agenda thereby showing contempt for the languages you mutilate.
14. Or you take the side of underdogs qua underdogs without giving any thought as to whether or not these underdogs are in any measure responsible for their status or their misery by their crimes. You apparently think that weakness justifies.
15. Or you label abortion a 'reproductive right' or a 'women's health issue' thus begging the question of its moral acceptability.
On each of these points and many others I could write a book demolishing the hard Left position that underlies the points and that dominates the universities, the mainstream media, the courts, and our current government. So what's to discuss? What conceivable motive could a conservative have to enter into debates with people who, from a conservative point of view, are willfully wrongheaded and demonstrably mistaken? There are open questions that need discussing, but the above aren't among them.
If there is divine light, sexual indulgence prevents it from streaming in. Herein lies the best argument for continence. The sex monkey may not be as destructive of the body as the booze monkey, but he may be even more destructive of the spirit. You may dismiss what I am saying here either by denying that there is any divine light or by denying that sexual indulgence impedes its influx, or both. But if you are in the grip of either monkey I will dismiss your dismissal. Why should I listen to a man with a monkey on his back? How do I know it is the man speaking and not the monkey?
Poor Kerouac got the holy hell beaten out of him by the simian tag-team. The Ellis Amburn biography goes into the greatest detail regarding Kerouac's homo- and hetero-erotic sexual excesses. His fatal fondness for the sauce, for the devil in liquid form, is documented in all the biographies.
It is not that the lovable dharma lush did not struggle mightily in his jihad against his lower self. He did, in his Buddhist phase in the mid-fifties, before the 1957 success of On the Road and the blandishments of fame did him in. (Worldly $ucce$$/Suckcess is an ambiguous good.) I've already pulled some quotations from Some of the Dharma which offers the best documentation of Jack's attempt to tread the straight path to the narrow gate.
One lesson, perhaps, is that we cannot be lamps unto ourselves even if the Tathagata succeeded in pulling himself up into Nirvana by his samsaric sandalstraps. To the vast run of us ordinary "poor suffering fucks" a religion of self-help is no help at all. The help we need, if help there be, must come from Elsewhere.
A mercifully short (9:17) but very good YouTube video featuring commentary by name figures in the philosophy of religion including Marilyn Adams, William Alston, William Wainwright, and William Lane Craig. Craig recounts the experience that made a theist of him. (HT: Keith Burgess-Jackson)
As Marilyn Adams correctly points out at the start of the presentation, the belief of many theists is not a result of religious experience. It comes from upbringing, tradition, and participation in what Wittgenstein called a "form of life" with its associated "language game." I myself, however, could not take religion seriously if it were not for the variety of religious, mystical, and paranormal experiences I have had, bolstered by philosophical reasoning both negative and positive. Negative, as critique of the usual suspects: materialism, naturalism, scientism, secular humanism, and so on. Positive, the impressive array of theistic arguments and considerations which, while they cannot establish theism as true, make a powerful case for it.
But my need for direct experience reflects my personality and, perhaps, limitations. I am an introvert who looks askance at communal practices such as corporate prayer and church-going and much, if not all, of the externalities that go with it. I am not a social animal. I see socializing as too often levelling and inimical to our ultimate purpose here below: to become individuals. Socializing superficializes. Man in the mass is man degraded. We need to be socialized out of the animal level, of course, but then we need solitude to achieve the truly human goal of individuation. Individuation is not a given, but a task. The social animal is still too much of an animal for my taste.
It is only recently that I have forced myself myself to engage in communal religious activities, but more as a form of self-denial than of anything else. My recent five weeks at a remote monastery were more eremitic than cenobitic, but I did take part in the services. And upon return I began attending mass with my wife. Last Sunday a man sat down next to me, a friendly guy who extended to me his hand, but his breath stank to high heaven. Behind me some guy was coughing his head off. And then there are those who show up for mass in shorts, and I am not talking about kids. The priest is a disaster at public speaking and his sermon is devoid of content. Does he even understand the doctrine he is supposed to teach? And then there are all the lousy liberals who want to reduce religion to a crapload of namby-pamby humanist nonsense. And let's not forget the current clown of a pope who, ignorant of economics and climatology, speaks to us of the evils of capitalism and 'global warming' when he should be speaking of the Last Things. (Could he name them off the top of his head?)
But then I reason with myself as follows. "Look, man, you are always going on about how man is a fallen being in a fallen world. Well, the church and its hierarchy and its members are part of the world and therefore fallen too. So what did you expect? And you know that the greatest sin of the intellectual is pride and that pride blinds the spiritual sight like nothing else. So suck it up, be a man among men, humble yourself. It may do you some good."
I read about your recent experiences with communal
religion. Your self-reflection reminded me of something Rabbi Harold Kushner
writes about in his book WHO NEEDS GOD. He talks about visiting with a young man
who told him, "I hate churches and synagogues, they're full of nothing but
hypocrites and jerks"...Kushner says he had to fight the urge to say, 'yep, and
there is always room for one more'.
Fond are the memories of my years in Boston as a graduate student in the mid-70s, '73-'78 to be exact, with a year off to study in Freiburg im Breisgau of Husserl and Heidegger fame. Even after securing a tenure-track post in the Midwest in '78 I would return to Boston in the summers, '79-'81. What a great town for running, for philosophy, for love. A wonderful compact town to be young and single in. Young, supported by a teaching fellowship, on the dole (food stamps!), not owning any real property and hence paying no real estate taxes, not making enough money to pay income tax, no car, no stereo, not TV, not even a radio, owning nothing outside books and some battered pots and pans, sharing houses and apartments to keep expenses down . . . . it was a rich and exciting if impecunious existence along the banks of the river Charles in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
But when it comes time to make money and own things and pay taxes and begin the transition from liberal foolishness and student sans-souci to adult Sorge and conservative Good Sense, the charms of Boston-on-the-Charles begin to fade, the Commonwealth takes on the guise of the People's Republic of Taxachusetts, and it is time to head West -- but not so far West that you end up on the Left Coast -- and land in some beautiful place like Arizona where one can afford to buy a house.
Is buying a home house around Boston worth it any more? (You can't buy a home, the bullshit of realtors notwithstanding.)
The real estate data company Zillow recently reported the Boston metro area is one of the most expensive places to own in the United States. “You’re talking twice the national average for the Greater Boston area,” says Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist. “And Boston itself is even more expensive.” The firm reports that the median cost of basic expenses around here, including things like insurance, taxes, and utilities, tops $9,400 a year. That’s before mortgage payments— and homeowners spend nearly 22 percent of their annual income on those.
Renters have it even worse, according to Zillow, giving almost 35 percent of their income to landlords who may or may not fix leaky faucets or respond to complaints about the loud dog in Unit 3. In New Orleans, by comparison, homeowners spend less than 16 percent of their income on mortgages. And life in Cincinnati, the Queen City, is even easier, with homeowners on average allotting just 11 percent of their income to monthly mortgage payments.
Suppose you win big in a state-sponsored lottery. The money was extracted via false advertising from ignorant rubes and is being transferred by a chance mechanism to one who has done nothing to deserve it. Besides, you are complicit in the state-sponsorship of gambling, which is clearly wrong. The state-sponsorship, not the gambling. There is nothing wrong with gambling, any more than there is anything wrong with consuming alcoholic beverages. But just as the state should not promote the consumption of alcohol or tobacco products, it should not promote gambling via lotteries. If you don't see that instantly, then I pronounce you morally obtuse -- or a liberal, which may come to the same thing.
Primum non nocere. A good maxim for states as well as sawbones. "First do no harm."
So a case can be made that lottery winnings are ill-gotten gains.
Sometimes. Other times you are charged what you can afford. Adding to the problem is that we often do not pay directly for goods and services. A third party picks up the tab, an insurance company, or an employer. No wonder my dentist and primary care physician like to see me so often. No wonder I go along. The care providers can overbill quite outrageously while all it costs me is a measly co-pay.
Imagine how much an oil change would cost if routine maintenance were covered by 'auto care insurance.'
Facts are the logical objects corresponding to whole declarative sentences, or rather to some of them. When it comes to facts, Butchvarov appreciates the strengths and weaknesses of both realism and anti-realism. For the realist, there are facts. For the anti-realist, there are no facts. Let us briefly review why both positions are attractive yet problematic. We will then turn to semirealism as to a via media between Scylla and Charybdis.
Take some such contingently true affirmative singular sentence as 'Al is fat.' Surely with respect to such sentences there is more to truth than the sentences that are true. There must be something external to the sentence that contributes to its being true, and this external something is not plausibly taken to be another sentence or the say-so of some person, or anything like that. 'Al is fat' is true because there is something in extralinguistic and extramental reality that 'makes' it true. There is this short man, Al, and the guy weighs 250 lbs. There is nothing linguistic or mental about the man or his weight. Here is the sound core of correspondence theories of truth. Our sample sentence is not just true; it is true because of the way the world outside the mind and outside the sentence is configured. The 'because' is not a causal 'because.' The question is not the empirical-causal one as to why Al is fat. He is fat because he eats too much. The question concerns the ontological ground of the truth of the sentential representation, 'Al is fat.' Since it is obvious that the sentence cannot just be true -- given that it is not true in virtue either of its logical form or ex vi terminorum -- we must posit something external to the sentence that 'makes' it true. I myself, a realist, don't see how this can be avoided even though I admit that 'makes true' is not perfectly clear.
Now what is the nature of this external truth-maker? It can't be Al by himself, and it can't be fatness by itself. Nor can it be the pair of the two. For it could be that Al exists and fatness exists, but the first does not instantiate the second. What's needed, apparently, is the fact of Al's being fat. So it seems we must add the category of fact to our ontology, to our categorial inventory. Veritas sequitur esse is not enough. It is not enough that 'Al' and 'Fat' have worldly referents; the sentence as a whole needs a worldly referent. Truth-makers cannot be 'things' or collections of same, but must be entities of a different categorial sort. (Or at least this is so for the simple predications we are now considering.)
The argument I have just sketched, the truth-maker argument for facts, is very powerful, but it gives rises to puzzles and protests. There is the Strawsonian protest that facts are merely hypostatized sentences, shadows genuine sentences cast upon the world. Butchvarov quotes P. F. Strawson's seminal 1950 discussion: “If you prise the sentences off the world, you prise the facts off it too. . . .” (Anthropocentrism, 174) Strawson again: “The only plausible candidate for what (in the world) makes a sentence true is the fact it states; but the fact it states is not something in the world.” (174)
Why aren't facts in the world? Consider the putative fact of my table's being two inches from the wall. Obviously, this fact is not itself two inches from the wall or in any spatial position. The table and the wall are in space; the fact is not. One can drive a nail into the table or into the wall, but not into the fact, etc. Considerations such as these suggest to the anti-realist that facts are not in the world and that they are but sentences reified. After all, to distinguish a fact from a non-fact (whether a particular or a universal) we must have recourse to a sentence: a fact is introduced as the worldly correlate of a true sentence. If there is no access to facts except via sentences, as the correlates of true sentences, then this will suggest to those of an anti-realist bent that facts are hypostatizations of true declarative sentences.
One might also cite the unperceivability of facts as a reason to deny their existence. I see the table, and I see the wall. It may also be granted that I see that the desk is about two inches from the wall. But does it follow that I see a relational fact? Not obviously. If I see a relational fact, then presumably I see the relation two inches from. But I don't see this relation. And so, Butchvarov argues (175), one does not see the relational fact either. The invisibility of relations and facts is a strike against them. Another of the puzzles about facts concerns how a fact is related to its constituents. Obviously a fact is not identical to its constituents. This is because the constituents can exist without the fact existing. Nor can a fact be an entity in addition to its constituents, something over and above them, for the simple reason that it is composed of them. We can put this by saying that no fact is wholly distinct from its constituents. The fact is more than its constituents, but apart from them it is nothing. A third possibility is that a fact is the togetherness of its constituents, where this togetherness is grounded in a a special unifying constituent. Thus the fact of a's being F consists of a, F-ness, and a nexus of exemplification. But this leads to Bradley's regress.
A fact is not something over and above its constituents but their contingent unity. This unity, however, cannot be explained by positing a special unifying constituent, on pain of Bradley's regress. So if a fact has a unifier, that unifier must be external to the fact. But what in the world could that be? Presumably nothing in the world. It would have to be something outside the (phenomenal) world. It would have to be something like Kant's transcendental unity of apperception. I push this notion in an onto-theological direction in my book, A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated. But by taking this line, I move away from the realism that the positing of facts was supposed to secure. Facts are supposed to be ontological grounds, extramental and extralinguistic. If mind or Mind is brought in in any form to secure the unity of a truth-making fact, then we end up with some form of idealism, whether transcendental or onto-theological, or what have you.
So we are in an aporetic pickle. We have good reason to be realists and we have good reason to be anti-realists. (The arguments above on both sides were mere sketches; they are stronger than they might appear. ) Since we cannot be both realists and anti-realists, we might try to mediate the positions and achieve a synthesis. My book was one attempt at a synthesis. Butchvarov's semi-realism is another. I am having a hard time, though, understanding how exactly Butchvarov's semi-realism achieves the desired synthesis. Butchvarov:
Semirealism regarding facts differs from realism regarding facts by denying that true sentences stand for special entities, additional to and categorially different from the entities mentioned in the sentences, that can be referred to, described, and analyzed independently of the sentences. [. . .] But semirealism regarding facts also differs from antirealism regarding facts by acknowledging that there is more to truth than the sentences . . . that are true. (180)
In terms of my simple example, semirealism about facts holds that there is no special entity that the sentence 'Al is fat' stands for that is distinct from what 'Al and 'fat' each stand for. In reality, what we have at the very most are Al and fatness, but not Al's being fat. Semirealism about facts also holds, however, that a sentence like 'Al is fat' cannot just be true: if it is true there must be something that 'makes' it true, where this truth-maker cannot be another sentence (proposition, belief, judgment, etc.) or somebody's say-so, or something merely cultural or institutional or otherwise conventional. And let's not forget: the truth-maker cannot be Al by himself or fatness by itself or even the pair of the two. For that pair (ordered pair, set, mereological sum . . .) could exist even if Al is not fat. (Suppose Al exists and fatness exists in virtue of being instantiated by Harry but not by Al.)
How can semirealism avoid the contradiction: There are facts and there are no facts? If the realist says that there are facts, and that anti-realist says that there aren't, the semi-realist maintains that 'There are facts' is an “improper proposition” (178) so that both asserting it and denying it are improper. In explaining the impropriety, Butchvarov relies crucially on Wittgenstein's distinction between formal and material concepts and his related distinction between saying and showing. Obscurum per obscurius? Let's see.
The idea seems to be that while one can show that there are facts by using declarative sentences, one cannot say or state that there are facts by using declarative sentences, or refer to any particular fact by using a declarative sentence. If there are facts, then we should be able to give an example of one. 'This page is white is a fact,' won't do because it is ill-formed. (179) We can of course say, in correct English, 'That this page is white is a fact.' But 'that this page is white' is not a sentence, but a noun phrase. Not being a sentence, it cannot be either true or false. And since it cannot be either true or false, it cannot refer to a proposition-like item that either obtains or does not obtain. So 'that this page is white' does not refer to a fact. We cannot use this noun phrase to refer to the fact because what we end up referring to is an object, not a fact. Though a fact is not a sentence or a proposition, it is proposition-like: it has a structure that mirrors the structure of a proposition. No object, however, is proposition-like. To express the fact we must use the sentence. Using the sentence, we show what cannot be said.
On one reading, Butchvarov's semirealism about facts is the claim that there are facts but they cannot be named. They cannot be named because the only device that could name them would be a sentence and sentences are not names. On this reading, Butchvarov is close to Frege. Frege held that there are concepts, but they cannot be named. Only objects can be named, and concepts are not objects. If you try to name a concept, you will not succeed, for what is characteristic of concepts, and indeed all functions, is that they are unsaturated (ungesaettigt). And so we cannot say either
The concept horse is a concept
The concept horse is not a concept.
The first, though it looks like a tautology, is actually false because 'The concept horse' picks out an object. The second, though it looks like a contradiction, is actually true for the same reason. Similarly, we cannot say either
The fact that snow is white is a fact
The fact that snow is white is not a fact.
The first, though it looks like a tautology, is actually false because 'The concept horse' picks out an object. The second, though it looks like a contradiction, is actually true for the same reason.
It is the unsaturatedness of Fregean concepts that makes them unnameable, and it is the proposition-like character of facts that makes them unnameable.
Semirealism about facts, then, seems to be the view that there are facts, but that we cannot say that there are: they have a nature which prevents us from referring to them without distorting them. But then the position is realistic, and 'semirealism' is not a good name for it: the 'semirealism' is more epistemological/referential than ontological.
Other things Butchvarov says suggest that he has something else in mind with 'semirealism about facts.' If he agrees with Strawson that facts are hypostatized declarative sentences, and argues against them on the ground of their unperceivability, then he cannot be saying that there are facts but we cannot say that there are. He must be denying that there are facts. But then why isn't he a flat-out antirealist?
Can you help me, Butch? What am I not understanding? What exactly do you mean by 'semirealism about facts'?
One philosopher's explanatory posit is another's mere invention.
In his rich and fascinating article "Direct Realism Without Materialism" (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. XIX, 1994, pp. 1-21), Panayot Butchvarov rejects epistemic intermediaries as "philosophical inventions." Thus he rejects sense data, sensations, ways of being appeared to, sense experiences, mental representations, ideas, images, looks, seemings, appearances, and the like. (1) Curiously enough, however, Butchvarov goes on to posit nonexistent or unreal objects very much in the manner of Meinong! Actually, 'posit' is not a word he would use since Butchvarov claims that we are directly acquainted with unreal objects. (13) Either way, unreal objects such as the hallucinated pink rat are not, on Butchvarov's view, philosophical inventions.
But now consider the following passage from Anscombe and Geach's 1961 Three Philosophers, a passage that is as if directed against the Butchvarovian view:
But saying this has obvious difficulties. [Saying that all there is to a sensation or thought of X is its being of X.] It seems to make the whole being of a sensation or thought consist in a relation to something else: it is as if someone said he had a picture of a cat that was not painted on any background or in any medium, there being nothing to it except that it was a picture of a cat. This is hard enough: to make matters worse, the terminus of the supposed relation may not exist -- a drunkard's 'seeing' snakes is not related to any real snake, nor my thought of a phoenix to any real phoenix. Philosophers have sought a way out of this difficulty by inventing chimerical entities like 'snakish sense-data' or 'real but nonexistent phoenixes' as termini of the cognitive relation. (95, emphasis added)
Butchvarov would not call a nonexistent phoenix or nonexistent pink rat real, but that it just a matter of terminology. What is striking here is that the items Geach considers chimerical inventions Butchvarov considers not only reasonably posited, but phenomenologically evident!
Ain't philosophy grand? One philosopher's chimerical invention is another's phenomenological given.
What is also striking about the above passage is that the position that Geach rejects via the 'picture of a cat' analogy is almost exactly the position that Butch maintains. Let's think about this a bit.
Surely Anscombe and Geach are right when it comes to pictures and other physical representations. There is a clear sense in which a picture (whether a painting, a photograph, etc.) of a cat is of a cat. The intentionality here cannot however be original; it must be derivative, derivative from the original intentionality of one who takes the picture to be of a cat. Surely no physical representation represents anything on its own, by its own power.And it is also quite clear that a picture of X is not exhausted by its being of X. There is more to a picture than its depicting something; the depicting function needs realization in some medium.
The question, however, is whether original intentionality also needs realization in some medium. It is not obvious that it does need such realization, whether in brain-stuff or in mind-stuff. Why can't consciousness of a cat be nothing more than consciousness of a cat? Why can't consciousness be exhausted by its revelation of objects? This is the Sartrean, radically externalist, anti-substantialist theory of consciousness that Butchvarov espouses. I don't advocate it myself, but I don't see that Geach has refuted it. That derivative intentionality requires a medium does not show that original intentionality does. No picture of a cat is exhausted by its depicting of a cat; there needs to be a physical thing, the picture itself, and it must have certain properties that found or ground the pictorial relation. But it might be otherwise for original intentionality.
Bewusstsein als bewusst-sein. Consciousness as being-conscioused. Get it? If memory serves, the neo-Kantian Paul Natorp has a theory along these lines, although the word I think he uses is Bewusstheit which, to coin an English expression, is the monadic property of consciousedness. Perhaps there is an anticipation of Sartre/Butchvarov in Natorp.
But this is not the place to examine Butchvarov's direct realist conception of consciousness, a conception he finds in Moore, Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Sartre, and contrasts with a mental-contents conception.
VDH asks: "What has become of free speech, free markets, and the rule of law?"
Essential reading. I am tempted to quote big chunks of it. Maybe later. For now, this:
Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.
As I have asked more than once: Did the US defeat the SU only to become the SU?
Check out this H-D promotional video. A celebration of individuality by people who dress the same, ride the same make of motorcycle, and chant in unison.
"Some of us believe in the Man Upstairs, but all of us believe in stickin' it to the Man Down Here."
But without the Man Down Here there would be no roads, no gasoline, no science, no technology, no motorcycles, no law and order, no orderly context in which aging lawyers and dentists could play at stickin' it to the Man on the weekends. The Man is discipline, self-denial, repression, deferral of gratification, control of the instinctual. The Man is civilization, discontents and all. Without the Man there would be no one to stick it to, and nothing to stick it to him with. Adolescents of all ages need the Man to have someone to rebel against.
Still and all, after watching this video, what red-blooded American boomer doesn't want to rush out and buy himself a hog? Get your motor runnin', head out on the highway . . . .
Personal anecdote: A few years back I took a three-day motorcycle course, passed it, and got my license. I was about ro rush out and buy myself a hog when Good Sense kicked in. So I rushed out and bought myself a Jeep Wrangler instead.
Could Europe’s liberal political traditions, its religious and cultural heritage, long survive a massive influx of Muslim immigrants, in the order of tens of millions of people? No. Not given Europe’s frequently unhappy experience with much of its Muslim population. Not when you have immigrant groups that resist assimilation and host countries that make only tentative civic demands.
Assimilation is key. Are the Muslim immigrants willing to assimilate? Are they willing to adopt the values and culture of successful societies that promote human flourishing? Or is it their intention to enjoy the benefits of successful societies while retaining the values and culture that account for the unsuccess of the societies from which they flee?
From Kant on, transcendental philosophy has been bedeviled by a certain paradox. Here again is the Paradox of Antirealism discussed by Butchvarov, as I construe it, the numbers in parentheses being page references to his 2015 Anthropocentrism in Philosophy:
PA: On the one hand, we cannot know the world as it is in itself, but only the world as it is for us, as it is “shaped by our cognitive faculties, our senses and our concepts.” (189) This Kantian insight implies a certain “humanization of metaphysics.” (7) On the other hand, knowable physical reality cannot depend for its existence or intelligibility on beings that are miniscule parts of this reality. The whole world of space-time-matter cannot depend on certain of its fauna. (7)
As I was mulling this over I was reminded of the Paradox of Human Subjectivity discussed by Edmund Husserl in his last work, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, in sections 53 and 54, pp. 178-186 of the Carr translation. Here is the paradox in Husserl's words:
PHS: How can a component part of the world, its human subjectivity, constitute the whole world, namely constitute it as its intentional formation, one which has always already become what it is and continues to develop, formed by the universal interconnection of intentionally accomplishing subjectivity, while the latter, the subjects accomplishing in cooperation, are themselves only a partial formation within the total accomplishment?
The subjective part of the world swallows up, so to speak, the whole world and thus itself too. What an absurdity! Or is this a paradox which can be sensibly resolved . . . ? (179-180)
What is common to both of the paradoxical formulations is the idea that we are at once objects in the world and subjects for whom there is a world. This by itself is not paradoxical. For there is nothing paradoxical in the notion that we are physical parts of a physical world that exists and has the nature it has independently of us, and that our knowing ourselves and other things is a physical process. Paradox ensues if (A) the world is a product of our accomplishments (Leistungen) as Husserl would have it, or a product of our formation (via both the categories of the understanding and the a priori forms of sensibility, space and time) of the sensory manifold, as on the Kantian scheme, and (B) we, the subjects for whom there is a world, are parts of the world. For then the entire vast cosmos depends for its existence and/or nature on transient parts thereof. And surely that would be absurd.
Interestingly, for both Butchvarov and Husserl, the solution to their respective paradoxes involves a retreat from anthropocentrism and a concomitant 'dehumanization' of subjectivity. For both, there is nothing specifically human about consciousness, although of course in "the natural attitude" (Husserl's natuerliche Einstellung) humans are the prime instances known to us of 'conscious beings.' For present purposes, consciousness is intentionality, consciousness-of, awareness-of, where the 'of' is an objective genitive. For Butchvarov, consciousness-of is not a property of (subjective genitive) human beings or of metaphysical egos somehow associated with human beings. It is not a property of human brains or of human souls or of human soul-body composites. It does not in any way emanate from human subjects. It is not like a ray that shoots forth from a subject toward an object. Consciousness is subject-less. So it is not a relation that connects subjects and objects. It is more like a monadic property of objects, all objects, their apparentness or revealedness.
Husserl and Butchvarov: Brief Contrast and Comparison
Husserl operates in a number of his works (Cartesian Meditations, Paris Lectures, Ideas I) with the following triadic Cartesian shema:
Ego-cogito-cogitatum qua cogitatum
Subject --------------------> object (where the arrow represents a directed cogitatio, a mental act, an intentional Erlebnis, and where 'object' is in the singular because the noema of a noesis is precisely trhe noema of that very noesis. Got that?)
Butchvarov's schema is not triadic but dyadic along the lines of Sartre's radically externalist, anti-substantialist theory of consciousness (where the arrow does not represent a mental act but monadic universal 'of-ness,' Sartre's "wind blowing towards objects" and where 'objects' is in the plural because subject-less consciousness is one to their many):
For Butchvarov, following Sartre, consciousness is no-thing, no object, other than every object, not in the world, and thus not restricted to the measly specimens of a zoological species. The relevant text is Sartre's early TheTranscendence of the Ego, directed against Husserl, according to which the ego is not an 'inhabitant' of consciousness but a transcendent item, an object alongside other objects. (Personal anecdote: when I first espied this title as a young man I thought to myself: "Great! A book that will teach me how to transcend my ego!")
Bear in mind that the phenomenological notion of transcendence is transcendence-in-immanence, not absolute transcendence.
Of course there is a paradox if not a contradiction lurking within the Sartrean, radically externalist, anti-substantialist conception of consciousness: consciousness is nothing, but not a 'mere nothing,' inasmuch as it is that without which objects would not be revealed or manifested or apparent. It is both something and no-thing. It is something inasmuch as without it nothing would appear when it is a plain fact that objects do appear. That objects appear is self-evident even if it is not self-evident that they appear to someone. It is not clear that there is a 'dative of appearing' though it is clear that there are 'accusatives of appearing.' Consciousness is nothing inasmuch as it is no object and does not appear. This apparent contradiction is to my mind real, to Butchvarov's merely apparent. It is clearly a different paradox than the Paradox of Antirealism. It is a paradox that infects a particular solution to the Paradox of Antirealism, Butchvarov's solution.
How does Husserl dehumanize subjectivity?
Here is a crucial passage from Crisis, sec. 54, p. 183:
But are the transcendental subjects, i.e., those functioning in the constitution of the world, human beings? After all, the epoche has made them into 'phenomena,' so that the philosopher within the epoche has neither himself nor the others naively and straightforwardly valid as human beings but precisely only as 'phenomena,' as poles for transcendental regressive inquiries. Clearly here, in the radical consistency of the epoche, each 'I' is considered purely as the ego-pole of his acts, habitualities, and capacities . . . .
[. . .]
But in the epoche and in the pure focus upon the functioning ego-pole . . . it follows eo ipso that nothing human is to be found, neither soul nor psychic life nor real psychophysical human beings; all this belongs to the 'phenomenon,' to the world as constituted pole.
Husserl is a great philosopher and one cannot do him justice in one blog post or a hundred; but I don't see how his position is tenable. On the one hand, each transcendental ego functioning as such cannot be a human being in nature. For nature and everything in it including all animal organisms is an intentional formation constituted by the transcendental ego. But not only can the world-constituting ego not be a physical thing, it cannot be a meta-physical spiritual thing either. It cannot be a res cogitans or substantia cogitans. As Husserl sees it, Descartes' identification of his supposedly indubitable ego with a thinking thing shows a failure fully to execute the transcendental turn (transzendentale Wendung). The Frenchman stops short at a little tag-end of the world (ein kleines Endchen der Welt) from which, by means of shaky inferences, he tries to get back what his hyperbolic doubt had called into question.
Husserl's thinking in sections 10-11 of Cartesian Meditations seems to be that if one fully executes the transcendental turn, and avoids the supposed mistake of Descartes, one is left with nothing that can be posited as existing in itself independently of consciousness. Everything objective succumbs to the epoche. No absolute transcendence is reachable: every transcendence is at best a transcendence-in-immanence, a constituted transcendence. Everything in the world is a constitutum, and the same holds for the world itself. If Descartes had gone all the way he would have seen that not only his animal body could be doubted, but also his psyche, the psychophysical complex, and indeed any spiritual substance 'behind' the psyche. He would have seen that the cogito does not disclose something absolutely transcendent and indubitable. For Husserl, everything objective, whether physical or mental, ". . . derives its whole sense and its ontic validity (Seinsgeltung), which it has for me, from me myself, from me as the transcendental ego, the ego who comes to the fore only with the transcendental-phenomenological epoche." (CM, p. 26. I have translated Seinsgeltung as ontic validity which I consider more accurate than Cairns' "existential status.") In Formal and Transcendental Logic, sec. 94, along the same lines, we read: "nothing exists for me otherwise than by virtue of the actual and potential performance of my own consciousness."
One problem: just what is this transcendental ego if it is the purely subjective source of all ontic validity, Seinsgeltung? Does it exist? And in what sense of 'exist'? It cannot exist as a constituted object for it is the subjective source of all constitutive performances (Leistungen). But if it is not an indubitable piece of the world, then it cannot existent transcendently either.
Descartes thought that he had reached something whose existence cannot be bracketed, eingeklammert, to use Husserl's term, and that that was himself as thinking thing. He thought he had hit bedrock, the bedrock of Ansichsein. Husserl objects: No, the ego's existence must be bracketed as well. But then nothing is left over. We are left with no clue as to what the transcendental ego is once it is distinguished from the psychological or psychophysical ego who is doing the meditating. To appreciate the difficulty one must realize that it is a factical transcendental ego that does the constituting, not an eidos-ego. The transcendental-phenomenological reduction is not an eidetic reduction. It would be a serious mistake to think that the re-duction (the leading back, the path of regress) from the psychological ego to the transcendental ego is a reduction to an eidos-ego, an ideal ego abstractly common to all factical egos.
Here is another approach to the problem. The transcendental-phenomenological reduction regresses from everything objective, everything naively posited as existing in itself, to the subjective sources of the ontic validity (Seinsgeltung) and Being-sense (Seinssinn) of everything objective. This radical regression, however, must leave behind everything psychological since the psychological co-posits the objective world of nature. But how can Husserl execute this radical regression and yet hold onto words like 'ego' and 'cogitatio' and 'cogitatum'? How does he know that it is an I or an ego that is the transcendental-phenomenological residuum? In simpler terms, how does he know that what he gets to by the trans-phen reduction is something that can be referred to by 'I'? How does he know that it is anything like a person?
After all, indexical uses of the first-person singular pronoun are used by human beings to refer to human beings.
Husserl and Butchvarov: Similarities and Differences
1. Both philosophers espouse versions of antirealism, albeit very different versions.
2. Both philosophers face versions of the Paradox of Antirealism.
3. Both philosophers solve the paradox by retreating from anthropocentrism and advocating the 'dehumanization' of consciousness.
4. Both philosophers oppose (Berkeleyan) idealism if that is the view that "all reality is mental" (Butchvarov, p. 213), a view that entails that "the perception of a tree and the tree perceived are no more distinguishable than are a feeling of pain and the pain felt." (213)
5. Both philosophers hold that there are specifically philosophical indexical uses of the first-person singular pronoun.
6. Both philosophers agree that the existence of such uses is, in Butchvarov's words, "evident from the intelligibility of Cartesian doubt. . . ." (196)
7. Both philosophers hold that these uses are referring uses.
8. Both philosophers hold that these referring uses do not refer to human beings.
9. Both philosophers oppose Descartes in holding that the specifically philosophical uses of the indexical 'I' do not refer to anything in the world.
10. Husserl and Butchvarov disagree on what these uses refer to. For Husserl they refer to the factical transcendental ego, which is the constitutive source of everything worldly as to its Seinsgeltung (ontic validity) and Seinsinn (ontic sense or meaning). For Butchvarov, they refer to the world itself, not things in the world, distributively or collectively, but the totality of these things. Butchvarov's theory is essentially that of the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "I am my world." (5.63) There is no metaphysical subject in the world. (5.633) There is an ultimate philosophical I but it is not in the world; it is the limit of the world (5.632), or rather the world itself.
11. Husserl and Butchvarov agree that, in Wittgenstein's words, "there really is a sense in which philosophy can talk about the self in a non-psychological way." (5.641) But of course the ways in which the two philosophers talk about the self non-psychologically are radically different.
12. Another major disagreement is this. Husserl sticks with the Cartesian Ansatz while attempting to radicalize it, but he never succeeds in clarifying the difference between the transcendental and psychological ego. Butchvarov abandons (or never subscribed to) the ego-cogito-cogitatum schema of Descartes, and of Kant too, and in a sense cuts the Gordian knot with Sartrean scissors: there is nothing psychological or egological or 'inner' or personal or subjective about consciousness. And so there is no problem of intersubjectivity such as bedeviled Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation and elsewhere. Butchvarov goes 'Hegelian.'
There is much more to be said, later. It is Saturday night and time to punch the clock, pour myself a drink, and cue up some oldies.