There is no end to the number of meditation themes; one must choose one that is appealing to oneself. One might start discursively, by running through a mantram, but the idea is to achieve a nondiscursive one-pointedness of attention. Here are some suggestions.
1. A Christian of a bhaktic disposition might start with the Jesus Prayer which is used by the mystics of Eastern Orthodoxy: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." One tethers one's mind to the mantram to the exclusion of all other thoughts, repeating it (in thought) over and over. One then gradually whittles it down to one word, 'Lord,' for example, by progressively dropping 'a sinner,' 'on me a sinner,' 'have mercy on me a sinner,' and so on. One then repeats 'Lord,' 'Lord, 'Lord,' . . . in an attempt to sink into mental quiet.
Mental quiet is the first phase of meditation proper. Achieving it is difficult and rare, and what one does to achieve it is merely preliminary to meditation proper. A resolute, daily meditator may reasonably hope touch upon mental quiet once a month.
If one feels oneself slipping into mental quiet, then one must let go of the mantram and simply abide passively in the state of quietude, without reflecting on it, analyzing it, or recalling how one got to it. Philosopher types who 'suffer' from hypertrophy of the discursive faculty may find this well-nigh impossible. The approach to mental quiet is a phase of active working; this is difficult enough. Even more difficult is the phase in which one lets go of this work and simply rests in it. There will be a very strong temptation to analyze it. If at all possible, resist this temptation.
2. A more metaphysically inclined Christian who is fond of St. Augustine might experiment with his phrase, 'Lord, eternal Truth, unchanging Light,' reducing it to one word, whether 'Lord' or 'Truth' or 'Light.'
3. I have had good results with a line from Plotinus' Enneads, "It is by the One that all beings are beings." This is a very rich saying that can be mulled over from several directions. Everything that is, IS. What is it for a thing TO BE? And what is the source of the being of that-which-is? It is by the One that all beings are. What does 'by' mean? And what is the One? Although one starts discursively, the idea is to penetrate this ONE, to become at-one with it, to achive at-one-ment. As Plotinus would say, it is a flight of the alone to the all-One. Of course, it cannot be grasped: any grasping is discursive.
One is digging for the nondiscursive root of the discursive mind, a root that is itself rooted in the ONE which is the source of all phenomenal entities and unities.
4. A classical theme of meditation is the Self, or, if you insist, the absence of a Self. Here is one of the ways I approach this theme. I start by closely attending to my breath. I think of it objectively as air entering though my nostrils and travelling to my lungs. And then I think about my body and its parts. Here on this mat is this animated body; but am I this animated body? How could I be identical to this animated body? I have properties it doesn't have, and vice versa. Am I this breath, these lungs, this cardiovascular system, this animated body? Or am I the awareness of all of this? How could I be any object? Am I not rather the subject for whom all objects are objects? Am I not other than every object? But what is this subject if it is not itself an object? How could there be a subject that was not an object or a potential object? Is it nothing at all? But there is awareness, and awareness is not any object. There is patently a difference between the awareness of O and O, for any O. To be for a human being is to be in this transcendental difference. Is this difference nothing? If it is not nothing, what differs in this difference?
One can pursue this meditation in two ways. One can reduce it to a koan: I am awareness and I am not nothing, but I am not something either. Not nothing and not something. How? I am something, I am nothing, I can't be both, I can't be neither. What then is this I that is nothing and something and not nothing and something? One can take this as a koan, an intellectual knot that has no discursive solution but is not a mere nugatory puzzle of linguistic origin, to be relieved by some Wittgensteinian pseudo-therapy, but a pointer to a dimension beyong the discursive mind. The active phase of the meditation then consists in energetically trying to penetrate this riddle.
Note that one needn't dogmatically assume or affirm that there is a dimension beyond the discursive mind. This is open inquiry, exploration without anticipation of result. One 'senses' that there is a transdiscursive dimension. This is connected to the famous sensus divinitatis. If there were no intimation of the Transdiscursive, one would have no motive to take up the arduous task of meditation. I am referring to the genuine article, not some New Age relaxation technique.
Or, instead of bashing one's head against this brick wall of a koan, one can just repeat 'I,' 'I', 'I' in an attempt at peacefully bringing the discursive intellect to subsidence. But in a genuine spirit of inquiry and wonder. No 'vain repetitions.'
When is one a hypocrite? Let's consider some cases.
C1. A man sincerely advocates a high standard of moral behavior, and in the main he practices what he preaches. But on occasion he succumbs to temptation, repents, and resolves to do better next time. Is such a person a hypocrite? Clearly not. If he were, then we would all be hypocrites, and the term 'hypocrite,' failing of contrast, would become useless. A hypocrite cannot be defined as one who fails to practice what he preaches since we all, at some time or other, fail to practice what we preach. An adequate definition must allow for moral failure.
C2. A man sincerely advocates a high standard of behavior, but, for whatever reason, he makes no attempt to live in accordance with his advocacy. Here we have a clear case of a hypocrite.
C3. Let the high standard be sexual purity in thought, word, and deed. Consider now the case of a person, call him Lenny, who does not accept this standard. He has no objection to impure thoughts or pornography or to the sort of locker-room braggadocio in which men like Donald Trump boast of their sexual escapades. But Lenny knows that his neighbor, a Trump supporter, does advocate the high standard that he, Lenny, does not acknowledge.
In an attempt to persuade his neighbor to withdraw his support from Trump, Lenny says to the neighbor, "Look, man, you are appalled by Trump's sexual morality, or lack thereof; how then can you vote for him?" This is an example of a non-fallacious ad hominem argument. The argument is 'to the man,' in this case the neighbor. It starts with a premise that the neighbor accepts but Lenny does not; the argumentative aim is to expose an inconsistency among the neighbor's beliefs.
Is Lenny a hypocrite? No. He does not accept the neighbor's stringent sexual morality. He thinks it is 'puritanical.' He may even think that it sets the bar so high that no one can attain it, the end result being that people who try to live by the standard are driven to hypocrisy. But Lenny himself is not a hypocrite. For it is not the case that he makes no attempt to live by a moral standard that he sincerely advocates. He does not accept the standard.
C4. Now we come to the most interesting case, that of 'Saul.' Lenny made it clear that he does not accept as objectively morally binding the demand to be pure in thought, word, and deed. Like Lenny, Saul does not accept the moral standard in question. Unlike Lenny, Saul feigns a commitment to it in his interactions with conservatives. Suppose Saul tries to convince Lenny's neighbor to withdraw his support from Trump. Saul uses the same argument that Lenny used.
Is Saul a hypocrite or not? Not by one definition that suggests itself. On this definition there are two conditions one must satisfy to be a hypocrite: (i) one sincerely advocates a moral standard he believes to be morally obligatory; (ii) one makes little or no attempt to live by the standard. In other words, a hypocrite is a person who makes no attempt to practice what he sincerely preaches and believes to be morally obligatory. Saul does not satisfy condition (i); so, on this definition, Saul is not a hypocrite.
Or is he?
It depends on whether (i) is a necessary condition of being a hypocrite. Suppose we say that a hypocrite is one who makes little or no attempt at practicing what he preaches, whether what he preaches is sincerely or insincerely advocated as morally obligatory. Then Saul would count as a hypocrite along with all the other Alinskyite leftists who condemn Trump for his sexual excesses.
Whether or not we call these leftist scum hypocrites, they use our morality against us when they themselves have nothing but contempt for it.
You say your conscience won't allow you to vote for a vulgarian who thinks, or used to think, that his celebrity entitles him to grab at the female anatomy? But your conscience is not troubled by Hllary's support for abortion? Then I humbly suggest that you are morally obtuse.
You tell me you won't vote for either Trump or Hillary? Then you support Hillary by your inaction. Is your conscience 'down' with that?
The readers of this site have heard often of that bill passed by the House over a year ago to punish surgeons killing those babies who survive abortions. The vote was 248-177, and all votes in opposition came from the Democrats.That, not merely partial-birth abortion, is the issue on the table right now.
For the official position now of the Democrats is that the right to abortion is not confined to pregnancy. It entails nothing less than the right to kill a child born alive, who survives the abortion. That is the position that Hillary should be made to defend.
And yet even more so Tim Kaine. He professes to be an earnest Catholic, that he had reservations about “partial-birth” abortion. And so: will he vote now in the Senate to bring to the floor for a vote that bill that passed the House a year ago? Will he break now from the pro-choice orthodoxy of his party, his president, and his presidential candidate? [emphasis added]
I want to ask, which meditation techniques do you practice? Or rather, do they include some specifically Buddhist ones? Even vipassana/insight practice?
Some Buddhists told me that doing vipassana seriously always tends one towards Buddhist beliefs. I wonder if you agree. Or if you think that vipassana practice as such is not exerting that tendency and that the tendency is rather exerted by the combination of the practice with certain doctrines brought into the practice.
E.g., yesterday I read (in a Buddhist manual by Daniel Ingram) that when practising vipassana -- in a way that increases the speed, precision, consistency and inclusiveness of our experience of all the quick little sensations that make up our sensory experience -- "it just happens to be much more useful to assume that things are only there when you experience them and not there when you don’t. Thus, the gold standard for reality when doing insight practices is the sensations that make up your reality in that instant. ... Knowing this directly leads to freedom."
Will the vipassana practice tend me to believe that "useful" assumption, so useful for becoming to believe the Buddhist doctrines? Also, can I make any serious progress in that practice without making that assumption?
A. One Way to Meditate
Let me tell you about a fairly typical recent morning's meditation. It lasted from about 3:10 to 4 AM.
After settling onto the meditation cushions, I turned my attention to my deep, relaxed, and rhythmic breathing, focusing on the sensation of air passing in and out through the nostrils. If distracting thoughts or images arose I would expel them on the 'out' breath so that the expulsion of air coincided with the 'expulsion' of extraneous thoughts. If you have already learned how to control your mind, this is not that difficult and can be very pleasant and worth doing for its own sake even if you don't go any deeper.
(If you find this elementary thought control difficult or impossible, then you ought to be alarmed, just as you ought to be alarmed if you find your arms and legs flying off in different directions on their own. It means that you have no control over your own mind. Then who or what is controlling it?)
I then visualized my lungs' filling and emptying. I visualized my body as from outside perched on the cushions. And then I posed a question about the awareness of breathing.
There is this present breathing, and there is this present awareness of breathing. Even if the breathing could be identified with, or reduced to, an objective, merely physical process in nature, this won't work for the awareness of breathing.
What then is this awareness? It is not nothing. If it were nothing, then nothing would appear, contrary to fact. Fact is, the breathing appears; it is an object of awareness. So the awareness is not nothing. But the awareness is not something either: it it not some item that can be singled out. There is at least an apparent contradiction here: the awareness-of is both something and nothing. A Zen meditator could take this as a koan and work on it as such.
Or, in an attempt at avoiding logical contradiction, one might propose that the awareness-of is something that cannot be objectified. It is, but it cannot be objectified.
I am aware of my breathing, but also of my breathing's being an object of awareness, which implies that in some way I am aware of my awareness, though not as a separable object.
Who is aware of these things? I am aware of them. But who am I? And who is asking this question? I am asking it. But who am I who is asking this question and asking who is asking it?
At this point I am beyond simple mind control to what could be self-inquiry. (Cf. Ramana Maharshi) The idea is to penetrate into the source of this awareness. One circles around it discursively with the idea of collapsing the circle into a non-discursive point, as it were. (I just now came up with this comparison.)
B. Does doing vipassana seriously always tends one towards Buddhist beliefs?
I don't think so. The Vipassana meditator's experiences are interpreted in the light of the characteristic Buddhist beliefs (anicca, anatta, dukkha). They are read in to the experiences rather than read off from them. A Christian meditator could easily do the same thing. I reported an unforgettable experience deep in meditation in which I felt myself to be the object of a powerful, unearthly love. If I take myself to have experienced the love of Christ, then clearly I go beyond the phenomenology of the experience. Still, the experience fits with Christian beliefs and could be taken in some loose sense to corroborate it. The same goes for the Vipassana meditator.
For example, does one learn from meditation that all is impermanent?
First of all, that
T. All is impermanent
Can be argued to be self-refuting.
Here goes. (T) applies to itself: if all is impermanent, then (T), or rather the propositional content thereof, is impermanent. That could mean one of two things. Either the truth-value of the proposition expressed by (T) is subject to change, or the proposition itself is subject to change, perhaps by becoming a different proposition with a different sense, or by passing out of existence altogether. (There is also a stronger reading of 'impermanent' according to which the impermanent is not merely subject to change, but changing, and indeed continuously changing.)
Note also that if (T) is true, then every part of (T)'s propositional content is impermanent. Thus the property (concept) of impermanence is impermanent, and so is the copulative tie and the universal quantifier. If the property of impermanence is impermanent, then so is the property of permanence along with the distinction between permanence and impermanence.
In short, (T), if true, undermines the very contrast that gives it a determinate sense. If true, (T) undermines the permanence/impermanence contrast. For if all is impermanent, then so is this contrast and this distinction. This leaves us wondering what sense (T) might have and whether in the end it is not nonsense.
What I am arguing is not just that (2) refutes itself in the sense that it proves itself false, but refutes itself in the much stronger sense of proving itself meaningless or else proving itself on the brink of collapsing into meaninglessness.
No doubt (2) is meaningful 'at first blush.' But all it takes is a few preliminary pokes and its starts collapsing in upon itself.
Now perhaps the Vippassana meditator gets himself into a state in which he is aware of only momentary, impermanent dharmas. How can he take that to show that ALL is impermanent?
There is also a question about what a belief would be for a Buddhist. On my understanding, beliefs are "necessary makeshifts" (a phrase from F. H. Bradley) useful in the samsaric realm, but not of ultimate validity. They are like the raft that gets one across the river but is then abandoned on the far shore. The Dharma (teaching) is the raft that transports us across the river of Samsara to the land of Nirvana where there is no need for any rafts -- or for the distinction between Samsara and Nirvana.
D. How Much Metaphysics Does One Need to Meditate?
Assuming that meditation is pursued as a spiritual practice and not merely as a relaxation technique, I would say that the serious meditator must assume that there is a 'depth dimension' of spiritual/religious significance at the base of ordinary awareness and that our ultimate felicity demands that we get in touch with this depth dimension.
"Man is a stream whose source is hidden." (Emerson) I would add that meditation is the difficult task of swimming upstream to the Source of one's out-bound consciousness where one will draw close to the Divine Principle.
As St. Augustine says, Noli foras ire, in te ipsum reddi; in interiore homine habitat veritas. The truth dwells in the inner man; don't go outside yourself: return within.
Pussy Bow is elliptical for 'Pussy Cat Bow,' the latter a well-established term in the world of women's fashion. Melania Trump sported one at the second debate. Was she out to implant some sly suggestion? I have no idea. But it occurred to me this morning that boy tie boys such as George Will also sport pussy cat bows. (As you know, pussy cats are both male and female.) And given the currency of 'pussy' in the politics of the day, it seems entirely appropriate to refer to the signature sartorial affectation of effete yap-and-scribble do-nothing quislings like Will as a pussy bow.
George Will is a good example of how Trump Derangement Syndrome can lead to cognitive meltdown.
We are regularly forced to endure a new left-wing manufactured, media-supercharged hysteria.
The latest is the tsunami of horror in reaction to Donald Trump's gross and juvenile comments made in private 11 years ago.
The tsunami of condemnation of his remarks is quintessential left-wing hysteria. That more than a few Republicans and conservatives have joined in is a testament to the power of mass media and hysteria to influence normally sensible people.
This is hysteria first and foremost because the comments were made in private. I would say the same thing if crass comments made by Hillary Clinton in private conversation had been recorded. In fact, I did. In 2000, in a Wall Street Journal column, I defended Hillary Clinton against charges that she was an anti-Semite. That year it was reported that Clinton had called Paul Fray, the manager of her husband's failed 1974 congressional campaign, a "f---ing Jew bastard."
Even the left-wing newspaper, the Guardian, reported that three people -- two witnesses and Fray -- confirmed the report.
Nevertheless, I wrote in the Journal, "I wish to defend Mrs. Clinton. I do so as a practicing Jew and a Republican. ... We must cease this moral idiocy of judging people by stray private comments."
What we really need is an Association of Conservative Philosophers. (The resonance of the initials ACP will not be lost on my astute readers.) The contributors to Rightly Considered may want to take this ball and run with it.
We've known all along that Trump is crude and Clintonian in his sexual appetite, although not as bad as Bill in terms of deeds; but the Wikileaks data dump brought something new and objectively far more important to our attention. It is another revelation of Hillary's greed, mendacity, secretiveness, and lust for power. We get a whiff of her doctrine of 'two truths' one for the insiders, the other for public consumption. There is her assault on national sovereignty with her call for a borderless world. This supercilious stealth ideologue who has enriched herself in government 'service' absolutely must be stopped, and there is only one man who can do it. Jeb! never was up to the job.
What's worse, a P-grabber or a gun grabber? The former operates on occasion and in private in the 'noble' tradition of Jack Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton. The latter would violate sacred American rights for all and forever. Don't believe Hillary's lies about supporting the Second Amendment. She lies whenever it is useful for advancing herself and her destructive agenda. In that order.
And then there is the utter hypocrisy of liberals who, having presided over when not promoting the injection of moral toxins into our culture, moralize about Trump's admittedly disgusting and puerile locker-room talk. Heather MacDonald gets it right in Trumped-Up Outrage. As does Margot Anderson who points out that Dems have no problem with the objectification of females if they are small enough. Rebecca Tetti offers this important insight:
These people who celebrate porn and abortion and make heroic figures out of small-souled, sex-deluded creatures such as Bill Maher and Lena Dunham and Sandra Fluke and lionize sick predator men like the Kennedys and Bill Clinton are not merely being hypocrites or playing politics when they denounce Trump. They are deliberately engaging in The Lie: the corruption of meaning itself. They aren’t outraged because they’re decent. They’re using our decency as a pawn in their quest for political power.
The insight is that the Left uses our decency, which they don't believe in, against us, mendaciously feigning moral outrage at what doesn't outrage them at all. (Cf. Saul Alinsky's RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”)
And then there are the milquetoast pseudo-conservatives who have withdrawn their support from Trump out of fear of losing their position, power, perquisites, and pelf. That other 'P-word,' to use Megyn Kelly's demure expression, seems rightly applicable to them. The motivations of Senator McCain and the boys are transparent enough.
. . . must be getting some 'Mean Tweets' along about now over his attack on Donald Trump.
I've admired De Niro as an actor ever since Martin Scorsese's 1973 Mean Streets.
Now actors and actresses have a right to their political opinions, but I can't see that most of them have a right to their high opinion of their political opinions. I wrote the following in June of 2013:
The encomia continue to pour in on the occasion of the passing of James Gandolfini. 'Tony Soprano' died young at 51, apparently of a heart attack, while vacationing in Italy. Given the subtlety of The Sopranos it would be unfair to say that Gandolfini wasted his talent portraying a scumbag and glorifying criminality, and leave it at that. But I wonder if people like him and De Niro and so many others give any thought to the proper use of their brief time on earth.
It's at least a question: if you have the talents of an actor or a novelist or a screen writer or a musician, should you have any moral scruples about playing to the basest sides of human nature? Are we so corrupted now that this is the only way to turn a buck in the arts?
This is not an election fought over competing policies but a struggle for legitimacy. A very large portion of the electorate (how large a portion we will discover next month) believes that its government is no longer legitimate, and that it has become the instrument of an entrenched rent-seeking oligarchy.
By and large, I agree with this reading. "America's economy is corrupt, cartelized and anti-competitive," I wrote in August. It is typical of rent-seeking that Lockheed Martin's stock price has tripled during the past three years, and payment to its top management team has risen from $12 million a year to over $60 million a year, while Lockheed Martin's F-35 languishes in cost overruns and deployment delays. Produce a lemon and get rich: that's Washington. It is not a trivial matter, or unrepresentative of our national condition, that the FBI director who declined to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for mishandling of classified material just returned to government from a stint at Lockheed Martin, where he was paid $6 million for a single year's service. I don't know whether FBI Director Comey is corrupt. But it looks and smells terrible.
That's why it was so important for Trump to talk about jail time for his opponent. If things had not gotten to the point where former top officials well might belong in jail, Trump wouldn't be there in the first place. The Republican voters chose a reckless, independently wealthy, vulgar, rough-edged outsider precisely because they believe that the system is corrupt. They are right to so believe; if the voters knew a tenth of what I know about it, they would march on Washington with pitchforks.
"Rent seeking” is one of the most important insights in the last fifty years of economics and, unfortunately, one of the most inappropriately labeled. Gordon Tullock originated the idea in 1967, and Anne Krueger introduced the label in 1974. The idea is simple but powerful. People are said to seek rents when they try to obtain benefits for themselves through the political arena. They typically do so by getting a subsidy for a good they produce or for being in a particular class of people, by getting a tariff on a good they produce, or by getting a special regulation that hampers their competitors. Elderly people, for example, often seek higher Social Security payments; steel producers often seek restrictions on imports of steel; and licensed electricians and doctors often lobby to keep regulations in place that restrict competition from unlicensed electricians or doctors.
Hillary got clobbered in last night's debate, but Trump missed an opportunity to refute her nonsensical claim that vetting Muslim immigrants involves the application of a "religious test."
In Article VI of the U. S. Constitution we read:
. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Two questions. One concerns Muslim citizens of the U.S. The other concerns Muslims who are attempting to immigrate. The first question first.
Does it follow from the passage quoted that the U. S. Constitution allows a Muslim citizen who supports Sharia (Islamic law) to run for public office? No! For the same Constitution, in its First Amendment, enjoins a salutary separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, though not in those words. Sharia and the values and principles enshrined in the founding documents are incompatible. On no sane interpretation is our great Constitution a suicide pact.
It is important to realize that Islam is as much an anti-Enlightenment political ideology as it is a religion. It is an unholy hybrid of the political and the religious. Our Enlightenment founders must be rolling around in their graves at the very suggestion that Sharia-subscribing Muslims are eligible for the presidency and other public offices.
A religion that requires the subverting of the U. S. Constitution is not an admissible religion when it comes to applying the "no religious Test" provision. On a sane interpretation of the Constitution, Islam, though a religion, is not an admissible religion where an admissible religion is one that does not contain core doctrines which, if implemented, would subvert the Constitution.
Or one might argue that Islam is not a religion at all. Damn near anything can and will be called a religion by somebody. Some say with a straight face that leftism is a religion, others that Communism is a religion. Neither is a religion on any adequate definition of 'religion.' I have heard it said that atheism is a religion. Surely it isn't. Is a heresy of a genuine religion itself a religion? Arguably not. Hillaire Belloc and others have maintained that Islam is a Christian heresy. Or one could argue that Islam, or perhaps radical Islam, is not a religion but a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. How to define religion is a hotly contested issue in the philosophy of religion.
The point here is that "religious" in ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required" is subject to interpretation. We are under no obligation to give it a latitudinarian reading that allows in a destructive ideology incompatible with our values and principles.
As for immigration, would-be immigrants have no rights under our Constitution. So Article VI doesn't apply to them at all.
As for gaseous talk of blocking Sharia-supporting Muslims as being "not who we are," it suffices to say that 'liberals' who gas off like this ought simply to be ignored.
There is no right to immigrate, and a nation is under no obligation to allow in subversive elements. But it does have every right to protect its culture and values. Here alone is a decisive reason to vote for Trump and block Hillary. Trump punched hard last night, but not hard enough. He should have pointed out that Hillary is a destructive leftist globalist who aims at the same "fundamental transformation" that Obama called for. He should have pointed out that no patriot calls for the fundamental transformation of his country. For what that implies in our case is the destruction of the U.S. as it was founded to be.
One approach to God and his attributes is Anselmian: God is "that that which no greater can be conceived." God is the greatest conceivable being, the most perfect of all beings, the being possessing all perfections. But what is a perfection? A perfection is not just any old (positive, non-Cambridge) property, but a great-making property. Some of these properties admit of degrees while some do not. To say of God that he is the ens perfectissimum, the most perfect of all beings, is to say that he possesses all great- making properties, and of those that admit of degrees, he possesses them to the highest degree.
For example, power admits of degrees; so while Socrates and God are both powerful, only God is maximally powerful. Wisdom too admits of degrees; so while both Socrates and God are both wise, only God is maximally wise. And the same holds for love and mercy and moral goodness. Many of the divine attributes, then, are maxima of attributes possessed by humans.
Are Socrates and God wise in the same sense of 'wise'? This follows if wisdom in God is just the highest degree of the same attribute that is found in some humans. Accordingly, the predicate 'wise' is being used univocally in 'Socrates is wise' and 'God is wise' despite the fact that God but not Socrates is all-wise.
Thus a commitment to univocity appears to be entailed by the Anselmian or perfect-being approach.
The polar opposite of univocity is equivocity. The phenomenon of equivocity is illustrated by this pair of sentences: 'Socrates is wise,' 'Hillary is in no wise fit to be president.' The meaning of 'wise' is totally different across the two sentences. Midway between univocity and equivocity there is analogicity. Perhaps an example of an analogical use of 'wise' would be in application to Guido the mafioso. He's a wise guy; he knows the score; but he is not a wise man like Socrates, though he is like the latter in being knowledgeable about some things. But I mention analogy only to set it aside.
My thesis: an Anselmian approach to God and his attributes such as we find in Alvin Plantinga and T. V. Morris is anthropomorphic. One takes God to have the very same great-making properties that (some) humans have, but to the maximal degree. Socrates is benevolent and merciful; God is omnibenevolent and all-merciful. And so on. In so doing, one approaches God from the side of man, assimilating God to man. God is 'made' in the image and likeness of man, as a sort of superman, but with defects removed and attributes maximized.
Well, what is wrong with anthropomorphism? The problem with it is that it fails to do justice to God's absolute transcendence and ineffability. If the difference between creatures and God is only a matter of degree, then God would not be worthy of worship. He would be "the greatest thing around" and no doubt an object of wonder and admiration, but not an appropriate object of worship. (See Barry Miller, A Most Unlikely God, U. of Notre Dame Press, 1996, p. 3)
God is the Absolute. As such, he is radically other than creatures. His attributes cannot be 'in series' with human degreed attributes even if at the limits of these series. God in not just another thing that exists and possesses properties in the way creatures possess properties.
A subsequent entry will examine the view opposite to that of perfect-being theology, that of negative theology.
Brewer and Shipley, One Toke Over the Line. What you'll be when the shit comes in. Matters feculent bring Brian Leiter to mind. Speculation is running high according to a New York Timespiece that he mailed feces to four philosophers.
It seems to me that what you call the ‘Discursive Framework’ is what I and others call ‘logic’, and that it reflects a Kantian view of logic that prevailed before Russell and Frege, namely that logic reflects the ‘laws of thought’ only. Are you mooting the possibility of beings which defy conception under these laws, or realms where the laws do not apply?
I was re-reading Kant’s Logic last week and it is full of this stuff.
Logic. I would define logic as the normative science of inference. Science: scientia, study of. Inference: the mental process of deriving a proposition (the conclusion) from one or more propositions (the premises). Normative: logic is not concerned with how people think as a matter of fact, which is a concern of psychology, but with how they ought to think if they are to arrive at truth and move from known truths to further truths. The task of logic is to set forth the criteria whereby correct inferences may be distinguished from incorrect inferences.
The above definition is neutral with respect to any number of ontological questions. Thus I used 'proposition' above innocuously without presupposing any theory as to what propositions are. I spoke of inference as a mental process, but this too is innocuous inasmuch as one could be a mind-brain identity theorist and agree with me about logic. (But if you are an eliminativist about the mental, then you 'get the boot': it is a Moorean fact that there are inferences.)
Discursive Framework. This is not the same as logic, pace the Historian, even though it does contain such logical principles as LNC and LEM, and indeed the whole of standard logic. (We can argue about 'standard' in the ComBox.) The DF also contains principles that are not strictly logical -- they are not logical truths -- but are better classifiable as metaphysical, as propositions of metaphysica generalis. Examples:
b. Everything has properties. (Partisans of bare or thin particulars do not deny this.)
c. Nothing has a property P by being identical to P. (The 'is' of predication is not assimilable to the 'is' if formal identity.)
d. Principles of logic, such as For any x, x = x, are not just true of objects of thought qua objects of thought, but are also true of mind-independentally real items. Thus the principles of logic are not merely principles of thought but principles of reality as well. Not merely logical, they are also ontological. There is a jump here, from the logical to the ontological, that Aristotle was aware of. With that jump comes the problem of justifying it.
e. The thinking of ectypal intellects such as ourselves is necessarily such as to involve a distinction between subject and predicate. There are no simple thoughts/propositions if by that we mean thoughts/proposition lacking sub-propositional structure. Every proposition is internally structured, e.g. Fa, Rab, (x)Fx, etc.
Laws of Thought but No Psychologism. Kant, Husserl, and Frege all rejected psychologism in logic. Are the laws of logic laws of thought? Yes, of course. What else would they be? But this is not to say that they are laws of human psychology. They are laws that govern the thinking of any actual or possible ectypal intellect. They might also be laws of reality, all reality, with no exceptions. But surely it would be uncritical simply to assume this. It wants proof, or at least argument. As I said, Aristotle had already seen the problem.
Are you mooting the possibility of beings which defy conception under these laws, or realms where the laws do not apply?
Yes, that is what I am doing, although I wouldn't speak of beings. That's plural, and the singular-plural distinction is part and parcel of the Discursive Framework. My aim is to make philosophy safe for mysticism. My aim is to show that while remaining in philosophy, in the DF, one can come to descry the 'possibility' of a, or rather, THE transdiscursive realm. I deny that the via negativa is the road to nowheresville or u-topia.
I am not attempting anything new; the novelty is merely in the way I go about it. And there is nothing illogical about it. Or can you find non sequiturs or other strictly logical mistakes in the above or in recent cognate posts? If there is a suprarational realm would it not be sloppy thinking, and thus 'illogical,' to assume that it must be infrarational?
Nothing new: we have seen this sort of thing in the Far East in Buddhist schools like that of Nagarjuna and in Taoism; in the ancient and medieval Western world, e.g., Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, and in the modern period with Kant and then again in the early Wittgenstein.
The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity (DDS) Helps Focus The Issue. Duality is unavoidable on the discursive plane. To think is to judge, and to judge at the most basic level is to judge of a that it is or is not F. At a bare minimum, then, there is the duality of subject and property. (Brentano transformations of predications into existential sentences avail nothing: the duality of existence-nonexistence remains.) As I said above, no thought/proposition, no content of an act of thinking, is simple. But God is simple according to DDS. He is identical to his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one. If he weren't then he would be dependent on his attributes for his nature, and he would not be the absolute reality. He could not possess aseity. He could not be uniquely unique. If God were unique only in the sense that he is necessarily one of a kind, then he would one of a class of such beings, and a greater could be conceived, namely, a being uniquely unique, i.e., unique in the sense of transcending the very distinction between instance and kind.
Now if God is simple, then how can our talk and thought, which is necessarily discursive, be literally true of him? One response is that God talk is literal but analogical. This needs exploring in a separate post. But if we cannot accept the doctrine of analogy, then the simple God lies entirely beyond the DF.
If the recipient of this insulthad been a philosophy professor instead of a mere history professor, he might have responded as follows. "Darling, by the Existence Symmetry of Relations, if a relation R holds, then either all of its relata exist or none of them do. Now one cannot divorce a person to whom one is not married. So you and I stand in the marital relation. It follows that if I don't exist, then you don't either."
One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that ‘bourgeois liberty’ is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought. This argument was used, for instance, to justify the Russian purges. The most ardent Russophile hardly believed that all of the victims were guilty of all the things they were accused of: but by holding heretical opinions they ‘objectively’ harmed the régime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations. The same argument was used to justify the quite conscious lying that went on in the leftwing press about the Trotskyists and other Republican minorities in the Spanish civil war. And it was used again as a reason for yelping against habeas corpus when Mosley was released in 1943.
This is quite applicable to the liberal-left termites of the present day who are undermining our institutions, so much so that not even an outfit such as the Society of Christian Philosophers is free of their infestation.
Thomas Sowell on the sad state of our elite universities. Excerpt:
There is no barbed wire around our campuses, nor armed guards keeping unwelcome ideas out. So there is no "iron curtain." But there is a curtain, and it has its effect.
One effect is that many of the rising generation can go from elementary school through postgraduate education at our leading colleges and universities without ever hearing a coherent presentation of a vision of the world that is fundamentally different from that of the political left.
There are world class scholars who are unlikely to become professors at either elite or non-elite academic institutions because they do not march in the lockstep of the left. Some have been shouted down or even physically assaulted when they tried to give a speech that challenged the prevailing political correctness.
Harvard is just one of the prestigious institutions where such things have happened -- and where preemptive surrender to mob rule has been justified by a dean saying that it was too costly to provide security for many outside speakers who would set off campus turmoil.
Despite the fervor with which demographic "diversity" is proclaimed as a prime virtue -- without a speck of evidence as to its supposed benefits -- diversity of ideas gets no such respect.
Univocity. There is an absolute reality. We can speak of it literally and sometimes truly using predicates of ordinary language that retain in their metaphysical use the very same sense they have in their mundane use. For example, we can say of Socrates that he exists, and using 'exists' in the very same sense we can say of God that he exists. Accordingly, 'exists' is univocal in application to creature and creator. Corresponding to this sameness of sense there is a sameness in mode of Being: God and Socrates exist in the very same way. No doubt God exists necessarily whereas Socrates exist contingently; but this is a mere different in modal status, not a difference in mode of Being. It is the difference between existing in all possible worlds and existing in some, but not all, possible worlds.
And the same holds for non-existential predicates such as 'wise.' We can say of Socrates that he is wise, and using 'wise' in the very same sense we can say of God that he is wise. Accordingly, 'wise' is univocal in application to creature and creator. Corresponding to this sameness of sense there is sameness in mode of property-possession: God and Socrates both have wisdom by instantiating it.
Analogicity. Theological language is literal, but analogical. I won't discuss this view now.
Negative Theology. The absolute reality is beyond all our concepts. God is utterly transcendent, radically other. Nothing can be truly predicated of God as he is in himself, not even that he exists, or does not. The problem with this approach is that it threatens to render theological language unintelligible.
So why not adopt the Univocity View? Is there any good reason not to adopt it?
I think there is a good reason, namely, that the UV implies that God is a being among beings; that God as absolute reality cannot be a being among beings; ergo, etc.
But what does it mean to say that God is a being among beings? As I see it, to say that God is a being among beings is to say that God is no exception to the logical and ontological principles (pertaining to properties, property-possession, existence, modality, etc.) that govern anything that can be said to exist. It is to say that God fits the ontological or general-metaphysical schema that everything else fits. It is to say that God is ontologically on a par with other beings despite the attributes (omniscience, etc.) that set him apart from other beings and indeed render him unique among beings. To spell it out. If God is a being among beings, then:
a. Properties. Some properties are such that God and creatures share them. Consider the property of being a self. For present purposes we may accept Dale's definition: "a being capable of consciousness, with intelligence, will, and the ability to intentionally act." God is a self, but so is Socrates. Both are selves in the very same sense of 'self.' 'Self' is being used univocally (not equivocally and not analogically) in 'God is a self' and 'Socrates is a self' just as 'wise' is being used univocally in 'God is wise' and 'Socrates is wise,' and so on.
Some are uncomfortable with talk of properties and seem to prefer talk of concepts. Well then, I can put my present point by saying that some concepts are such as to be common to both God and creatures, the concept self being one example.
b. Property-possession. God has properties in the same way that creatures do. My first point was that there are some properties that both God and creatures share; my present point is a different one about property-possession: the having of these shared properties is the same in the divine and creaturely cases. Both God and Socrates instantiate the property of being a self, where first-level instantiation is an asymmetrical relation or non-relational tie that connects individuals and properties construed as mind-independent universals.
The point could be put conceptualistically as follows. Both God and Socrates fall under the concept self, where falling under is an asymmetrical relation that connects individuals and concepts construed as mind-dependent universals.
c. Existence. God is in the same way that creatures are. Given that God exists and that Socrates exists, it does not follow that they exist in the same way. Or so I maintain. But part of what it means to say that God is a being among beings is to say that God and Socrates do exist in the very same way. Whatever it is for an item to exist, there is only one way for an item to exist, and God and Socrates exist in that very same way. For example, if what it is for x to exist is for x to be identical to some y, then this holds both for God and Socrates.
d. It follows from (a) and (b) taken together that God is really distinct from his properties, and that his properties are really distinct from one another. God is in this respect no different from Socrates. Really distinct: distinct in reality, apart from our mental operations. (What is really distinct need not be capable of separate existence.) And both items have their properties by instantiating them.
e. It follows from (c) that God is really distinct from his existence (just as Socrates is really distinct from his existence) and that God is really distinct from existence (just as Socrates is distinct from existence).
f. It follows from (d) and (e) taken together that God is not ontologically simple. Contrapositively, if God is ontologically simple, then God is not a being among beings as I am using this phrase. It is therefore no surprise that Dale Tuggy ansd other evangelical Christians reject divine simplicity whereas I am inclined to accept it. See my SEP entry for more on this.
To conclude, my argument against the Univocity View is as follows:
A. If the UV is true, then God is a being among beings in the sense explained. B. If God is a being among beings, then God is not ontologically simple. C. An absolute being must be ontologically simple. D. God is the absolute being. Ergo E. God is ontologically simple. Ergo F. God is not a being among beings. Ergo G. The Univocity View is not true.
So I reject the UV. If the other two views are also rationally rejectable, then we have an aporia, which, I suggest, is what we have. We are at an impasse, as usual in philosophy.
What follows, from Victor Davis Hanson, is the correct view on illegal immigration. But you will never get a destructive, hate-America leftist to accept it:
Illegal Immigration. No country can exist without borders. Hillary and Obama have all but destroyed them; Trump must remind us how he will restore them. Walls throughout history have been part of the solution, from Hadrian’s Wall to Israel’s fence with the Palestinians. “Making Mexico pay for the wall” is not empty rhetoric, when $26 billion in remittances go back to Mexico without taxes or fees, largely sent from those here illegally, and it could serve as a source of funding revenue Trump can supersede “comprehensive immigration” with a simple program: Secure and fortify the borders first; begin deporting those with a criminal record, and without a work history. Fine employers who hire illegal aliens. Any illegal aliens who choose to stay, must be working, crime-free, and have two years of residence. They can pay a fine for having entered the U.S. illegally, learn English, and stay while applying for a green card — that effort, like all individual applications, may or may not be approved. He should point out that illegal immigrants have cut in line in front of legal applicants, delaying for years any consideration of entry. That is not an act of love. Sanctuary cities are a neo-Confederate idea, and should have their federal funds cut off for undermining U.S. law. The time-tried melting pot of assimilation and integration, not the bankrupt salad bowl of identity politics, hyphenated nomenclature, and newly accented names should be our model of teaching new legal immigrants how to become citizens.
For the record, I cop to being a “nativist.” I prefer policies that explicitly favor the existing American citizenry, the people born here, i.e., the natives. I’m somewhat impressed that Pethokoukis and his ilk have managed to redefine this age-old, bedrock political principle as radical and “racist.” It’s like forcing people to say the sky is green—a real propaganda feat, at which hats must be tipped in awe. But acknowledging leftist success as blunt force propagandists doesn’t require accepting the underlying lie.
By etymology, a native to a place is a person born in that place. Should immigration and other policies of a nation favor those born there? Of course. That is just common sense. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people must of course be FOR the people, and these people are not people in general but the people of the nation in question. The United States government, for example, exists to benefit the people of the United States. That is its main task regardless of any subsidiary tasks it may take on such as foreign disaster relief.
So there is an innocuous and defensible sense of 'nativism.' It has nothing to do with xenophobia. 'Liberals' know this, of course, but for their ideological purposes they ride roughshod over the distinction.
And of course it has nothing to do with 'racism.'
Some 'liberals' accuse opponents of illegal immigration of being racists; but this betrays a failure to grasp a simple point, namely, that illegal immigrants do not form a race. Is this difficult to understand?
And while we are on the delightful topic of race, let me point out to our liberal pals that Muslims are not a race either. Muslims are adherents of the religion, Islam, and these adherents are of different races and ethnicities. Got that?
So if a conservative objects to the immigration of Sharia-supporting Muslims, his objection has nothing to do with race.
I apologize to the intelligent for making points so obvious; but given willfull 'liberal' self-enstupidation, these things cannot be repeated too often.
Hence my political burden of proof:
As contemporary 'liberals' become ever more extreme, they increasingly assume what I will call the political burden of proof. The onus is now on them to defeat the presumption that they are so morally and intellectually obtuse as not to be worth talking to.
In his Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford UP, 2000), Alvin Plantinga mounts a critique of John Hick's Kantianism in the philosophy of religion. In this entry I will begin an evaluation of Plantinga's critique. I will focus on just two and a half pages, pp. 43-45, and examine only one preliminary argument.
The question, very simply, is whether our concepts apply to the ultimately real. If God is the ultimately real, as he is, then the question is whether or not our concepts apply to God. If they don't, then we cannot refer to or think about God or make true and literal predications of him such as 'God is infinite.' If so, we cannot have any beliefs about God. Now Plantinga's project is to show that Christian belief (which of course includes beliefs about God) is warranted. But a belief about X cannot be warranted unless there is that belief. So there had better be beliefs about God, in which case there had better be true and literal predications about God. This implies that God must have properties and that some of these properties must be such that we can conceive them, i.e., have concepts of them. In brief, it must be possible for some of our concepts to apply to God.
For Hick, God is the ultimately real, or simply 'the Real' but our concepts do not apply to God/the Real. (43) For present purposes, we needn't consider why Hick holds this except to say that it is for broadly Kantian reasons. And we needn't consider all the nuances of Hick's position. At present I am concerned only with Plantinga's refutation of the bald thesis that none of our concepts apply to God. Plantinga writes,
If Hick really means that none of our terms applies literally to the Real, then it isn't possible to make sense of what he says. I take it the term 'tricycle' does not apply to the Real; the Real is not a tricycle. But if the Real is not a tricycle, then 'is not a tricycle' applies literally to it; it is a nontricycle. It could hardly be neither a tricycle nor a nontricycle, nor do I think that Hick would want to suggest that it could. (45)
Here again is what I am calling the Bald Thesis: None of our terms/concepts apply literally and truly to the Real/God. Has Plantinga refuted the Bald Thesis? I am sure London Ed, who got me going on this, will answer affirmatively. Plantinga has given us a simple, clear, and knock-down (i.e. dispositive or decisive) argument that blows the Bald Thesis clean out of the water.
Or Does It?
Here is a response that Ed won't like.
Plantinga assumes that everything that exists is subject to the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC), the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM), and the principle that everything instantiates properties, where if x instantiates property P, then x is distinct from P. Reasonable assumptions! These assumptions articulate (some of) what I will call the Discursive Framework, the framework within which all our discursive thinking takes place. On these assumptions the following tetrad is no tetralemma:
a. My wife is a tricycle b. My wife is not a tricycle. c. My wife is both. d. My wife is neither.
This is no tetralemma since all limbs are false except (b). My wife, delightful as she is, is not so wonderful as to be 'beyond all our concepts.' She does not lie, or stand, beyond the Discursive Framework. She is not a tricycle and therefore she falls under the concept nontricycle. Now the same goes for the Real (or the Absolute, or the Plotinian One, etc.) if the Real (the Absolute, etc.) is relevantly like my wife.
Now that is what Plantinga is assuming. He is assuming that tricycles, and wives, and the Real are all on a par in that each such item is a being among beings that necessarily has properties and has them by instantiating them, where property-instantiation is governed by LNC and LEM. What's more, he assumes that everything that exists exists in the same way, which implies that there are not two or more different ways of existing, say, the way appropriate to a finite item such as my wife and the way appropriate to God. For Aquinas, God is Being itself: Deus est ipsum esse subsistens. Everything else is really distinct from its being. But Plantinga will have none of that, implying as it does the doctrine of divine simplicity. Everything exists in the same way and has properties in the same way. The differences between wife and God are in the properties had, not in they way they are had, or in the way their subjects exist.
Plantinga also assumes that to talk sense one must remain with the confines of the Discursive Framework. This is why he says, of Hick, that "it isn't possible to make sense of what he says." We ought to concede the point in this form: It makes no discursive sense. For discursive sense is governed by the above principles.
If you say that no property can be predicated of the Real, then you predicate of the Real the property of being such that no property can be predicated of it, and you land in incoherence. These quick little arguments come thick and fast to the mentally agile and have been around for ages. But note that they presuppose the absolute and unrestricted validity of the Discursive Framework.
It is not that the Discursive Framework is irrational; you could say it is constitutive of discursive rationality and meaningful speech. But how could someone within the Framework prove in a noncircular way its absolute and unrestricted validity? How prove that it is not restricted to what our finite minds can think? How prove that nothing lies beyond it? Of course, anything that lies beyond it is Unsayable and cannot be thought in terms of the Framework. And if all thought is subject to the strictures of the Framework, then what lies beyond cannot be thought.
How then gain access to what is beyond thought? Nondual awareness is one answer, one that Buddhists will like. The visio beata of Thomas may be another. But I don't need to give an answer for present purposes. I merely have to POINT TO, even if I cannot SAY, the possibility that the Discursive Framework is not absolutely and unrestrictedly valid. This is equivalent to the possibility that the Discursive Framework is but a transcendental presupposition of our thinking without which we cannot think but is not legislative for all of Being. I am using 'transcendental' in the Kantian way.
The Framework cannot rationally ground its hegemony over all Being; it can only presuppose it. We can conclude that Plantinga with his quick little argument has not refuted the Bald Thesis according to which there is a noumenal Reality that lies beyond our concepts and cannot be accessed as it is in itself by conceptual means. He has rationally opposed the thesis, but in a way that begs the question. For he just assumes the absolute and unrestricted validity of the Discursive Framework when the question is precisely whether it is absolutely and unrestrictedly valid.
So I pronounce round one of Plantinga-Hick a draw.
Some people present for the talk melted down when confronted by Swinburne’s view. The president of the SCP, Michael Rea, apologized for all the butthurt caused by the discussion of Christian ideas in a gathering of Christian philosophers. But when word of the controversy got out to the broader philosophy community, some prominent philosophers reacted with anger — at Swinburne’s defenders, and those who were angry that the SCP president had apologized for Swinburne’s speech. Among the critics was Georgetown’s Rebecca Kukla:
So Swinburne, one of the world’s most prominent philosophers, is guilty of “hate” and “privilege,” as are his defenders — this, according to Kukla, a Georgetown philosopher who is also senior researcher at the Jesuit university’s Kennedy School of Ethics.
Well, Kukla went on to post the following comment — now deleted — on the Facebook page of Yale philosopher Jason Stanley, under a remark in which he denounced Swinburne and his defenders this: “F–k you, assholes.” Said the editor-in-chief of the Kennedy Institute’s ethics journal:
I apologize to readers for offense caused by the coarse language here, but it’s important to know exactly what passes for critical discourse among academic progressives near the top of the philosophy profession — especially given that the statement has disappeared down the memory hole.
I am put in mind of something similar Obama said a couple of years ago. He said, "ISIL is not Islamic."
What's the reasoning behind Obama's statement? Perhaps this:
1. All religions are good. 2. Islam is a religion Ergo 3. Islam is good 4. ISIL is not good. Ergo 5. ISIL is not Islamic.
This little argument illustrates how one can reason correctly from false/dubious premises.
Are all religions good? Suppose we agree that a religion is good if its contribution to human flourishing outweighs its contribution to the opposite. Then it is not at all clear that Islam is good. For while it has improved the lives of some in some respects, on balance it has not contributed to human flourishing. It is partly responsible for the long-standing inanition of the lands it dominates and it is the major source of terrorism in the world today. It is an inferior religion, the worst of the great religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Schopenhauer is surely right that it is the "saddest and poorest form of theism." Its conception of the afterlife is the crudest imaginable. Its God is pure will . See Benedict's Regensburg Speech. It is a violent religion scarcely distinguishable from a violent political ideology. Its prophet was a warrior. It is impervious to any correction or enlightening or chastening from the side of philosophy. There is no real philosophy in the Muslim world to speak of. Tiny Israel in the 66 years of its existence has produced vastly more real philosophy than the whole of the Muslim world in the last 400 years.
So it is not the case that all religions are good. Some are, some are not. This is a balanced view that rejects the extremes of 'All religions are good' and 'No religions are good.'
. . . if Islam is intrinsically flawed, then the assumption that religion is basically a good thing would have to be revisited. That, in turn, might lead to a more aggressive questioning of Christianity. Accordingly, some Church leaders seem to have adopted a circle-the-wagons mentality—with Islam included as part of the wagon train. In other words, an attack on one religion is considered an attack on all: if they come for the imams, then, before you know it, they’ll be coming for the bishops. Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t provide for the possibility that the imams will be the ones coming for the bishops.
Note that the following argument is invalid:
6. Islam is intrinsically flawed 2. Islam is a religion Ergo 7. All religions are intrinsically flawed.
So if you hold that Islam is intrinsically flawed you are not logically committed to holding that all religions are. Still, Kilpatrick's reasoning may be a correct explanation of why some want to maintain that all religions are good. Kilpatrick continues (emphasis added):
In addition to fears about the secular world declaring open season on all religions, bishops have other reasons to paint a friendly face on Islam. It’s not just the religion-is-a-good-thing narrative that’s at stake. Other, interconnected narratives could also be called into question.
One of these narratives is that immigration is a good thing that ought to be welcomed by all good Christians. Typically, opposition to immigration is presented as nothing short of sinful. [. . .]
But liberal immigration policies have had unforeseen consequences that now put (or ought to put) its proponents on the defensive. In Europe, the unintended consequences (some critics contend that they were fully intended) of mass immigration are quite sobering. It looks very much like Islam will become, in the not-so-distant future, the dominant force in many European states and in the UK as well. If this seems unlikely, keep in mind that, historically, Muslims have never needed the advantage of being a majority in order to impose their will on non-Muslim societies. And once Islamization becomes a fact, it is entirely possible that the barbarities being visited on Christians in Iraq could be visited on Christians in Europe. Or, as the archbishop of Mosul puts it, “If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”
If that ever happens, the bishops (not all of them, of course) will bear some of the responsibility for having encouraged the immigration inflow that is making Islamization a growing threat. Thus, when a Western bishop feels compelled to tell us that Islamic violence has “nothing to do with real Islam,” it’s possible that he is hoping to reassure us that the massive immigration he has endorsed is nothing to worry about and will never result in the imposition of sharia law and/or a caliphate. He’s not just defending Islam, he’s defending a policy stance with possibly ruinous consequences for the West.
Of course, presidents and prime ministers say the same sorts of things about Islam. President Obama recently assured the world that “ISIL speaks for no religion,” Prime Minister David Cameron said that the extremists “pervert the Islamic faith,” and UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asserted that the Islamic State “goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.” They say these things for reasons of strategy and because they also have a narrative or two to protect. In fact, the narratives are essentially the same as those held by the bishops—religion is good, diversity is our strength, and immigration is enriching.
Since they are actually involved in setting policy, the presidents, prime ministers, and party leaders bear a greater responsibility than do the bishops for the consequences when their naïve narratives are enacted into law. Still, one has to wonder why, in so many cases, the bishop’s narratives are little more than an echo of the secular-political ones. It’s more than slightly worrisome when the policy prescriptions of the bishops so often align with the policies of Obama, Cameron, and company.
Many theologians believe that the Church should have a “preferential option for the poor,” but it’s not a good sign when the bishops seem to have a preferential option for whatever narrative stance the elites are currently taking on contested issues (issues of sexual ethics excepted). It’s particularly unnerving when the narratives about Islam and immigration subscribed to by so many bishops match up with those of secular leaders whose main allegiance is to the church of political expediency.
When the formulas you fall back on are indistinguishable from those of leaders who are presiding over the decline and fall of Western civilization, it’s time for a reality check.
In every sense. Well, maybe not in every sense: I live on the far eastern edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area with those glorious mountains right outside my window. The western end of the Valle del Sol is flat and boring. You may as well be in the Midwest.
October 1st is International Coffee Day. Herewith, some tunes in celebration. Not that I'm drinking coffee now: it's a morning and afternoon drink. I am presently partaking of a potent libation consisting of equal parts of Tequila and Campari with a Fat Tire Fat Funk Ale as chaser.
Commander Cody, Truck Drivin' Man. This one goes out to Sally and Jean and Mary in memory of our California road trip two years ago. "Pour me another cup of coffee/For it is the best in the land/I'll put a nickel in the jukebox/And play that 'Truck Drivin' Man.'"
It's October again, my favorite month, and Kerouac month in my personal literary liturgy. And no better way to kick off Kerouac month than with 'sweet gone Jack' reading from "October in Railroad Earth" from Lonesome Traveler, 1960. Steve Allen provides the wonderful piano accompaniment. I have the Grove Press Black Cat 1970 paperback edition. I bought it on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, 12 April 1973.
I was travelling East by thumb to check out East Coast graduate schools where I had been accepted, but mostly I 'rode the dog' (Greyhound bus), a mode of transport I wouldn't put up with today: two guys behind me chain-smoked and talked all the way from Los Angeles to Phoenix. New Orleans proved to be memorable, including the flophouse on Carondelet I stayed in for $2. It was there that Lonesome Traveler joined On the Road in my rucksack.
I never before had seen Tabasco bottles so big as on the tables of the Bourbon Street bars and eateries. Exulting in the beat quiddity of the scene, I couldn't help but share my enthusiasm for Nawlins with a lady of the evening, not sampling her wares, but just talking to her on the street, she thinking me naive, and I was.
Here is a long excerpt (7:10), which contains the whole of the first two sections of "October in Railroad Earth," pp. 37-40, of the Black Cat edition.
You don't know jack about Jack if you don't know that he was deeply conservative despite his excesses. The aficionados will enjoy The Conservative Kerouac.
Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin -- a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.
What Chesterton is saying is that sin is a fact, an indisputable fact, whether or not there is any cure for it. Not only is sin a fact, original sin is a fact, an observable fact one can "see in the street." Chesterton also appears to be equating sin with positive moral evil.
Is the concept of moral evil the same as the concept of sin? If yes, then the factuality of moral evil entails the factuality of sin. But the concept of moral evil is not the same as the concept of sin. It is no doubt true -- analytically true as we say in the trade -- that sins are morally evil; but the converse is by no means self-evident. It is by no means self-evident that every moral evil is a sin. It is certainly not an analytic or conceptual truth. Let me explain.
Moral evil is evil that comes into the world from a misuse of free will. As such, it could exist whether or not God exists as long as there are free agents. All that would be required for the existence of moral evil, in addition to free agents, would be moral values and/or moral laws. Sin, however, implies God by its very concept. Sin is an offense against God. A sinful act is not just a morally wrongful act, but an act of disobedience, a contravention of a divine command. From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on sin:
In the Old Testament sin is set forth as an act of disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11; Isaiah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 2:32); as an insult to God (Numbers 27:14); as something detested and punished by God (Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 4:9-16); as injurious to the sinner (Tob., xii, 10); to be expiated by penance (Ps. 1, 19). In the New Testament it is clearly taught in St. Paul that sin is a transgression of the law (Romans 2:23; 5:12-20); a servitude from which we are liberated by grace (Romans 6:16-18); a disobedience (Hebrews 2:2) punished by God (Hebrews 10:26-31). St. John describes sin as an offence to God, a disorder of the will (John 12:43), an iniquity (1 John 3:4-10).
My first conclusion, then, is that moral evil is not the same as sin. The concept of sin includes the concept of moral evil, but not conversely. This is because sin is an offence against God. If so, then it is difficult to see how sin could be a fact, as Chesterton claims. It is more like an interpretation of certain facts. We need an example.
One man brutally assaults another to get his wallet. He beats him to death with a baseball bat while the victim's little girl looks on in horror. The act is evil, and let's assume that the act's being evil is a fact not only in the sense that it is the case, but also in the sense that it is evidently the case, observably the case, indisputably the case. But is the act of assault sinful? Only if God exists. For only if God exists can there be an offence against God, which is what sin is. But that God exists is not a fact in the sense I just defined. For even if it is the case that God exists -- even if the proposition God exists is true -- it is not evidently, observably, indisputably the case that God exists. Chesterton says one can "see sin in the street." This is just false. For surely one cannot see God in the street, or in the sky, or in nature as a whole. The theist interprets what he literally sees in terms of, within the horizon of, his belief in God, and so he interprets the evil act as a sinful act. But the sinfulness of the act of assault is not a perceptible quality of it: it cannot be 'read off' the act.
My second conclusion, therefore, is that sin is not a fact in the sense defined. This is because calling an act sinful involves an interpretation of the act in terms of an entity, God, whose existence is not a fact in the sense defined. It is interesting to note that if sin were an observable fact, then, given that concept of sin includes the concept of God, we would be able to mount a quick argument for God from the existence of sin. That is, we could argue as follows:
There are sinful acts; If there are sinful acts, then God exists; ergo, God exists. This argument is valid in point of logical form, but is not probative because it begs the question in the first premise: anyone who classifies some acts as sinful in so doing presupposes the existence of God.
So, contrary to what Chesterton says above, sin is not a fact one can "see in the street." It is no more an observable fact than the createdness or divine designedness of the universe are observable facts. They may be facts, but they are not observable facts. I seem to recall Kierkegaard saying something similar to what Chesterton says above. Kierkegaard, if memory serves, says in effect that Original Sin is the one dogma that is empirically verifiable. But this is the same mistake. The most one can say is that the fact of moral evil is plausibly explained by the doctrine of Original Sin. If the doctrine is true, then we have a plausible explanation of the ubiquity and horrendous depth of moral evil; but other explanations are possible which operate without theistic assumptions.
Supposing we are able to disqualify these other explanations, we could argue that Original Sin is the best explanation of the pervasive fact of moral evil. Even if such an argument were sound, it would not show that Original in is an empirical fact; it would remain at best an explanatory hypothesis.
Indeed, in the debate Monday night, Clinton framed her discussion of “implicit bias” as a malady we all suffer from, telling Lester Holt:
“I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other.”
Well, yes, too many people do jump to conclusions. So, what’s the solution, Hillary? When it comes to policing, since it can have literally fatal consequences, I have said, in my first budget, we would put money into that budget to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers. Wait. What? If we’re all biased, who’s training whom? Let’s be very clear: When it moves from abstract to concrete, all this talk about “implicit bias” gets very sinister, very quickly. It allows radicals to indict entire communities as bigoted, it relieves them of the obligation of actually proving their case, and it allows them to use virtually any negative event as a pretext for enforcing their ideological agenda.
What bothers me about David French is that, while he writes outstanding columns in support of the conservative cause, he is, last time I checked, a NeverTrumper.
Would it be fair to label him a yap-and-scribble milquetoast 'conservative'? He talks and talks, writes and writes, but refuses to support the one man who has any chance of impeding Hillary and the Left's destructive 'long march' (Mao) through the institutions of our society. That is so strange and so absurd that one may be justified in a bit of psychologizing. Perhaps the explanation of his behavior and that of others in his elite club is revealed in this column by F. H. Buckley:
I gave a talk to a conservative group not so long ago, when the NeverTrumper still lived in his fantasy wor[l]d. They believed that the voters and delegates would finally come to their senses and nominate the amiable Ted Cruz, or that somehow they’d jigger the Convention rules, or that the absurd Great White Hope, David French, would do the trick.
It was four months ago, and I gave my usual anti-Pollyanna talk of gloom and doom. When I finished people lined up to ask questions, and one of them was a senior executive at a prominent DC think tank. “It’s true we’re going to Hell in a hand-basket,” he said, “but this time we’ve got a lot of great think tanks on our side.” Right you are, I thought. Bad as it might be, you can say “I’ve got mine.”
I thought of that when I talked to a friend yesterday. He spoke of dinner parties ruined when NeverTrumpers start abusing Trump supporters. Then he told me of one dinner party at which two of the most prominent NeverTrumpers confessed why they want Hillary to win. They know they’ll have no access to the Trump White House if he wins. Nor would they have any access to a Hillary White House. The difference, however, is that their donor base would desert them in the event of a Trump victory, whereas they can raise money from donors in the event of a Hillary win.
We had figured this out. We’re just surprised to hear them admit it.
Jacques, in a debate in an earlier thread with Bob the Ape (sic!) writes:
[. . .] The mere fact that conservatism, or western civilization more generally, is the product of a specific group does not _imply_ that "it must remain the exclusive property of that group, or that that group is essential for its existence". On the other hand, there is no particular reason to believe that these things are _not_ the exclusive property of western peoples or that white Europeans are _not_ essential to the conservation and functioning of our western civilization. What evidence could anyone have for thinking that western civilization encodes principles or ways of being that are "true for everyone" or, more to the point, feasible for everyone? Obviously a healthy western society can do just fine with small numbers of foreigners, including even Australian Aborigines. But the question is whether our societies can thrive (or even exist) when non-whites, non-westerners, non-Christians are introduced in numbers so huge as to reduce white western Christians to minorities. I can't think of any reason for optimism about this scenario. And there's lots of evidence for the view that western civilization could only have been created and sustained by the specific racial-cultural groups that in fact created and sustained it. Certainly it seems far-fetched to imagine that groups such as the Aborigines have the capacity to produce anything like the civilization of Italy or England or France or Holland. These are groups who have never left the stone age. [. . .]
One claim Jacques seems to be making is that
C1. There is no reason to believe that Western civilization includes principles true for everyone.
Now (C1) strikes me as plainly false. Suppose we mean by a principle a true proposition fundamental to some body of knowledge. Accordingly, the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) is a principle of logic. It is true and it is foundational. This principle, along with all the rest of the principles of logic, is not just true, but necessarily true. So they are true not only for every actual person but for every possible person. Is Jacques a relativist who thinks that the truths of logic vary from tribe to tribe, that LNC is true for whites but not for blacks, for Europeans but not for Australian aborigines? I hope not.
Obviously the same holds for the principles of mathematics and all the propositions derivable from these principles. They are necessarily true for all actual and possible persons.
All of these truths of logical and mathematics are true for everyone, not in the sense that they are accepted or believed by everyone, but in the sense that they are binding on everyone.
The principles of natural science, though presumably not necessarily true, being contingently true, are nonetheless true for all if true for any. Consider the principle of the additivity of velocities at pre-relativistic speeds. If a Zulu on a train fires a gun in the direction of train travel, the velocity of the projectile will be governed by this principle just as it will be if it were an Englshman doing the firing.
Further examples could be given, but the foregoing suffices to refute (C1). Another claim Jacques seems to be making is
C2. There is no reason to believe that the principles included in Western civilization are not the exclusive property of Western peoples.
Jacques is suggesting that the these principles are the exclusive property of Western peoples. The suggestion is absurd. No one has proprietary rights in truth. Truths cannot be owned. Pythagoras discovered the theorem of Pythagoras, but he did not thereby come to own it. If a German or an African uses the theorem to calculate the length of the hypotenuse on a right triangle is he violating Pythagoras' property rights, or those of his descendants?
Had Pythagoras invented the theorem bearing his name, then perhaps one could say that he owned it. But he didn't invent it; he discovered it. To latch onto a truth is to latch onto something absolute: the truth of a proposition is not subject to the whim of arbitrary creativity. A truth of mathematics is not like an advertising logo or a song. A song can be copyrighted, but not a truth.
Suppose I write a post in which I state some well-known truths in my own classy way. Impressed by my inimitable style, you decide to plagiarize my post. All you succeed in doing is plagiarizing my classy, or perhaps quirky, formulations: you cannot plagiarize the truths the formulations express. Plagiarism is literary theft. You can steal my formulations by copying without quoting and attributing the sentences I have constructed, but you cannot steal the truths, if any, that I have expressed via those formulations. I own the formulations, but not the truths they express. Truth is too noble a thing to be owned by the likes of me -- or you. And what one cannot steal, one cannot own. Or to put the point with precision: if x cannot be stolen, then there cannot be any y such that y owns x. (Please run that proposition through your counterexample detector.)
The Egyptians measured land and so were involved in geo-metry, but it was the ancient Greeks, Euclid and the boys, who made of geometry an axiomatic deductive science. Those Greek geniuses discovered axiomatics. Did they own it? Is an Italian or a German who axiomatizes set theory guilty of theft, or 'cultural appropriation'?
And now we notice something very interesting. These alt-rightists are the mirror image of crazy leftists. This is no surprise inasmuch as they are reactionaries. He who reacts is defined by that against which he reacts. He has decided to dance with the pig and get dirty instead of eschewing the dance altogether. Thus to the identity politics of the Left, they oppose an identity politics of the Right, when what they ought to be doing is getting beyond identity politics altogether.
And if they maintain that the cultural goods we have in the West (logic, philosophy, science, law, engineering, architecture, music, art, Judeo-Christian ethics) are owned by Western peoples, then they will have to endorse some notion of illicit 'cultural appropriation' when non-Western peoples make use of them. But notice: if it is wrong for the Koreans, say, to appropriate the engineering know-how of Germans and Americans in their auto manufacturing and elsewhere, then why wasn't it wrong for the French and Italian mathematicians to 'culturally appropriate' the fruits of Greek mathematics?
The point here is that there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as Greek mathematics; there is mathematics and the Greeks were uncommonly gifted at getting at its truths. Do you alt-rightists think that there is Jewish physics and Aryan physics? Physics is physics. Race, ethnicity, class, and 'gender' are irrelevant when it comes to the contents of physics.
Are men as a group better than women as a group when it comes to contributing to math and phsyics? Yes. But it doesn't follow that there is male math and female math.
One of the alt-right fallacies, then, is to think that Western culture is somehow tied necessarily to Western peoples either by being true or normatively binding only for Western peoples, or by being owned by Western peoples. The fact that Western peoples originated this culture is irrelevant. What is Western in origin, and thus in this sense particular, is yet universal in validity.
More defensible than (C1) and (C2) is
C3. There is little or no reason to think that Western civilization includes ways of comportment that are feasible for everyone.
This is a large topic. I agree that our recent foreign policy has been irresponsibly interventionist.
But consider that the barbarian bastards from the North, the Goths and Visigoths and others who sacked Rome more than once and laid waste to the civilization of the Mediteranean -- didn't those Teutonic and other bad asses end up getting civilized by the great Graeco-Roman, Judeo-Christian culture to the extent that, in the fullness of time, they could produce a Goethe and a Kant and a Beethoven?
I am not opposed to everything Jacques says above. I agree with, or at least find very plausible, these further claims:
C4. There is good reason to think that white Europeans are essential to the preservation of our Western civilization.
C5. Our civilization is at risk if Western Christians become a minority.
C6. "Western civilization could only have been created and sustained by the specific racial-cultural groups that in fact created and sustained it."
Why do people exaggerate in serious contexts? The logically prior question is: What is exaggeration, and how does it differ from joking, lying, bullshitting, and metaphorical uses of language?
Donald Trump in the first of his presidential debates with Hillary Clinton made the astonishing claim that she has been fighting ISIS all her adult life.
Note first that Trump was not joking but making a serious point. But he couched the serious point in a sentence which is plainly false and known by all to be false. So he cannot be taxed with an intention to deceive. Since he had no intention of deceiving his audience, and since the point he was making (not merely trying to make) about Clinton's fecklessness is true, he was not lying. He was not bullshitting either since he was not trying to misrepresent himself as knowing something he does not know or more than he knows.
Our man was exaggerating. That is different from joking, lying, and bullshitting.
Exaggeration bears some resemblance to metaphor. If I say, 'Sally is a block of ice,' I speak metaphorically or figuratively. What I say is literally false. But by saying it, I manage to convey to the listener some such proposition as that Sally is unemotional and (perhaps) sexually unresponsive. And when Trump exaggerated, though he said something literally false, he managed to convey to his audience the true proposition that the Obama-Clinton response to ISIS was and is a failure.
But I wouldn't want to say that the Orange Man was speaking metaphorically. I am merely pointing to a similarity between metaphor and exaggeration.
The similarity may consist in the coming apart of sentence meaning and speaker's meaning. In our example, the sentence meaning is that of a falsehood. The speaker, however, using a literally false sentence means something different from what the words 'by themselves' mean, and manages to convey a truth to his hearers.
So I suggest that to understand exaggeration we need to understand metaphor so that we can delimit the former from the latter. But what exactly is metaphor? That's a tough one.
But the main thing in politics and life is that exaggeration erodes credibility. He who exaggerates betrays an inability or unwillingness to adjust his discourse to the world as it is.
Trump could easily win the election if he could get a grip on his rhetoric. But he can't and he won't.
HereI catalog three specimens of exaggeration by well-known philosophers.
I spent the whole day yesterday at an auto dealership buying my wife a new car. But last night I didn't dream about the car, but about Hillary who appeared young and stunning and topless, but with very small breasts. What does this dream mean?
My subconscious was telling me that Hillary came across in the first debate much better than Trump (young and stunning) and that therefore she 'won' the debate despite her indefensible position (toplessness) and weak arguments (small breasts).
And 'win' she did. She threw the Orange Man onto the defensive and made him look bad. Despite his allegations of her lack of stamina, she stood there strong as a bull. She threw a lot of bull too, but it doesn't matter in these so-called debates. It's all about appearances. That's what the world runs on. That's what impresses people. Remember Ronald Reagan's contentless 'zingers'? "There you go again!" "Where's the beef?" (An allusion to a Wendy's restaurant commercial of the time.)
Some of us recall Nixon-Kennedy, 1960. You could see Nixon sweat. Sweat and scowl. An introvert in an extrovert's profession, he was no match for the charming and charismatic and lovable Jack Kennedy. He lost on appearances. But Nixon was the better man with the better arguments despite playing Captain Ahab to Kennedy's Prince Charming.
Trump missed opportunities to nail Hillary. She spouted standard liberal nonsense about 'gun violence' as if guns are violent, but nary a peep escaped her lying lips about the thug culture in black ghettos which is the real root of the problem. Similarly on the 'stop and frisk' matter. But Trump was stymied by his need to appeal to black voters.
You can't say to black people that, as a group, they, and in particular young black males, are more criminally inclined than whites, and that this is what justifies 'stop and 'frisk' profiling, for they will take it as racist insult, not as the plain truth, which is what it is.
I predict a win by Hillary in the general, by a small margin. I hope I am wrong.
A Hillary win will concern me as a citizen. But as a philosopher it will be of no concern. For the owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk.
Addendum 1. 'Gun epidemic' is another obfuscatory phrase Hillary used last night. A characteristic conflation of the moral and the epidemiological that could arise only in the febrile brain of a liberal. The problem in the black ghettos is not too many guns, but too few fathers.
Addendum 2. I said above that a Hillary win would concern me as a citizen but not as a philosopher. But this was an uncharacteristic undialectical lapse on my part. For one cannot flourish as a philosopher in prison or in a totalitarian regime. The embodied philosopher must concern himself to some extent with politics as with the material conditions of his philosophizing.
Corrigendum 1. Dennis M. writes,
A correction: “Where’s the beef?” was from a Reagan debate, but it was a line Mondale used against him. That one didn’t do much, but Reagan’s quip about not using Mondale’s youth and inexperience against him did a lot to kill the worries people had after his somewhat listless performance in their first debate.
Apparently, Richard Swinburne, perhaps the most distinguished of contemporary philosophers of religion, had the chutzpah to defend a traditional Christian view of homosexuality at a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers. This provoked the outrage of certain cultural Marxists.
If only a 'trigger warning' had been issued prior to Swinburne's address! Then the whole controversy might have been avoided. The girly girls and pajama boys could have padded off to their sandbox to play with their dolls until the start of the next session.
Required reading for a sense of the depth of the rot in contemporary academe. Here is the conclusion of Dreher's article:
The fact that a Yale philosophy professor not only holds such vicious opinions towards another professor who apparently only stated a historically standard Christian philosophical view of homosexuality, but who also did not hesitate to publicly denounce that professor in the most vulgar possible terms, is a striking sign of the revolutionary times. To give you a sense of the ideas that are considered so vile as to be unutterable, even in a Christian philosophers’ conference, I searched in Swinburne’s 2007 book Revelation to see what his view on homosexuality is. To my knowledge, there has been no transcript provided of his SCP talk, but numerous online comments by philosophers who were there said that there was nothing in it that Swinburne had not already said in Revelation (which was published by Oxford University Press, not known for being a purveyor of National Socialist tracts) It’s possible to search on Amazon and find the relevant pages in the Swinburne book. It starts on p. 304. As best I can tell, here is his argument:
Children need two parents. The inability to beget children is a “disability.”
Homosexuality, by this definition, is a disability.
Disabilities need to be prevented and cured.
What causes homosexuality? We don’t know, but it’s likely some combination of genetics and environment.
We can change the environmental conditions by discouraging people from homosexual acts, and embracing a homosexual identity.
There is always a possibility that the disability called homosexuality might be cured, so therapy should be considered. But as of now, we have no reason to think that it will be successful, except in a slight number of cases.
In any case, homosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste, just as heterosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste in the face of their own disordered sexual impulses.
We must show love and compassion to homosexuals (and others with disordered impulses), but real love and compassion implies wanting not what they want, but what is best for them.
Therefore, to love gays (and everybody else) is to desire that all who live outside the bounds of normative heterosexual marriage live in chastity.
This is a very common Christian argument from Scripture and the natural law. For a more detailed version of this argument, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the meaning of sex and sexuality. The Catholic Church teaches that all sexual acts and all sexual desire outside of heterosexual marriage (including masturbation, and use of pornography) are disordered, because they disrupt the purpose of sex (= the unity of the couple, open to the possibility of the conception of new life). This is why the Church condemns contraception as a deformation of the right use of sex. The Catechism calls homosexuality “intrinsically disordered” because it is a state of sexual desire that can in no way be rightly ordered.
One can easily see why contemporary philosophers would object to this, and theyshould object to it, philosophically, if it violates their principles. But the idea that what Swinburne said is some sort of crazy right-wing blast from the bowels of Hitleriana, not fit to be stated in philosophical company, is insane.
But I don’t think Stanley and his academic confreres are insane, not in the least. I think they are radical progressive ideologues. I think they deliberately want to demonize any philosophers who hold to the traditional Christian teaching on the meaning of sexuality, particularly homosexuality. One of the most prominent contemporary philosophers is Princeton’s Peter Singer, who has advocated bestiality (under certain conditions) and the extermination of handicapped newborns. Singer is welcome within contemporary philosophical circles … but Richard Swinburne is now to be anathematized?
Anybody with eyes can see what’s going on here. There is a cleansing underway. The fact that the Society of Christian Philosophers is allowing itself to be bullied by these people is deeply depressing. Christian philosophers ought to be defending Swinburne’s right to state his opinion, even if they disagree with that opinion.
(I should add here that one of the handful of reasons I would even consider voting for Trump is the certain knowledge that a Hillary Clinton administration would only further the cultural hegemony of cutthroat revolutionaries like Stanley and his fellow travelers.)
Many liberals are 'threatening' to leave the country should Trump become president. They have their 'escape countries' all lined up: Canada, Australia, France and others. But to where can a conservative American escape if and when his country becomes a culturally Marxist craphole? Chances are good that the destructive Hillary will weasel her way into the White House. Is there some country we can flee to?
You see, we conservatives have nowhere to go. The USA is the last bastion of liberty, limited government, and free speech, not to mention freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Shouldn't there be at least one country on the face of the earth that champions and promotes traditional American values?
Liberals are big on diversity, but only so long as it is politically correct diversity. They have no interest in a diversity of ideas or of types of government.
As usual, I want to ask you about something (something you're free to blog about).
Since December 2015, I've practised mindfulness meditation, with low intensity. Just 20 minutes or so each or every other day, paying calm (if possible) attention to things as they were happening in my mind or in my body. It's been great, mainly as an antidote against anxiety.
These days I have asked myself, could I gain something more, or something deeper, from my practice? If so, how? By practising more intensively, even painfully? Or by praying during, or after, my practise? The first path is carved with admirable precision in some Buddhist, step-by-step manuals . . . . But it might eventually lead me into a land of -- what seems like -- mental disorder and metaphysical madness (sensory overload, intensive fear or disgust, the impression of no self and of the nullity of classical logic). On the other hand, no comparably detailed manuals for following the latter path seem to be available . . . .
So I wonder, what would be your suggestion to someone who considers meditating more seriously and in line with really good sources yet who wants to turn neither insane nor Buddhist?
First of all, I am glad to hear that you have taken up this practice. Philosophers especially need it since we tend to be afflicted with 'hypertrophy of the critical faculty' to give it a name. We are very good at disciplined thinking, but it is important to develop skill at disciplined nonthinking as well. Disciplined nonthinking is one way to characterize meditation. One attempts to achieve an alert state of mental quiet in which all discursive operations come to a halt.
It is very difficult, however, and 20 minutes every other day is not enough. You need to work up to 40-60 minute sessions every day. Early morning is best, the same time each morning. Same place, a corner of your study, say. Posture? Seated cross-legged on cushions, with the knees lower than the buttocks. Kneeling has spiritual value, but not for long periods of prayer or meditation. Breath? Slow, even, deep, from the belly.
There needn't be any physical pain; indeed, there shouldn't be. If the full lotus is painful, there is the half-lotus, and the Burmese posture. Depending on the state of my legs and joints, I adjust my body as needed for comfort and stability. A lttle hatha yoga is a useful preliminary. Or just plain stretching, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
A certain mild ascesis, though, is sine qua non for successful meditation/contemplation. You have to live a regular life, follow the moral precepts, abstain from spiritual and physical intoxicants, and so on. A little reading the night before of Evagrios Pontikos, say, is indicated; filling your head with mass media dreck & drivel contraindicated.
Meditation is an inner listening. The receptivity involved, however, opens one to demonic influence. So there is a certain danger in going deep. It is therefore a good idea for a Christian meditator to begin his session with the Sign of the Cross, a confession of weakness in which one admits that one is no match for demonic agents, and a supplication for protection from their influence. I recommend you buy a copy of the spiritual classic, Unseen Warfare by Lorenzo Scupoli. (Available from Amazon.com) Anyone who attempts to make spiritual progress ought to expect demonic opposition. (Cf. St. Paul, Epistle to the Ephesians, 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.")
Could deep meditation drive one mad? I would say no if you avoid psychedelic drugs and lead an otherwise balanced life. You could meditate two hours per day with no ill effects.
But if you go deep, you will have unusual experiences some of which will be disturbing. There are the makyo phenomena described by Zen Buddhists. (Whether these phenomena should be described as the Zennists describe them is of course a further question.) For example, extremely powerful and distracting sexual images. I once 'heard' the inner locution, "I want to tear you apart." Inner locutions have a phenomenological quality which suggests, though of course it does not prove, that these locutions are not excogitated by the subject in question but come from without. Demonic interference?
But on another occasion I felt myself to be the object of a very powerful unearthly love. An unforgettable experience. A Christian will be inclined to say that what I experienced was the love of Christ, whereas a skeptic will dismiss the experience as a 'brain fart.' The phenomenology, however, cannot be gainsaid.
Will deep meditation and the experiences that result drive you to accepting Buddhist teaching according to which all is impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and devoid of self-nature (anatta)? I don't think so. Many Buddhists claim that these doctrine are verified in meditation. I would argue, however, that they bring their doctrines to their experiences and then illictly take the experiences as supporting the doctrines.
For example, if you fail to find the self in deep meditation does it follow that there is no self? Hardly. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now that was quick and dirty, but I have expatiated on this at length elsewhere.
Does the path of meditation lead to the relativization of classical logic, or perhaps to its utter overthrow? This is a tough question about which I will say something in a subsequent post that examines Plantinga's critique of John Hick in the former's Warranted Christian Belief.
Finally, I want to recommend the two-volumed The Three Ages of the Interior Life (not the one-volumed edition) by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. (Available from Amazon.com) This is the summit of hard-core Catholic mystical theology. This is the real thing by the hardest of the hard-core paleo-Thomists. You must read it. No Francine namby-pamby-ism here.
One way to circumvent 'One man, one vote' is by cheating. That's the liberal way. Vote early and vote often. Vote even if you are dead. Vote by mail and then in person. That liberals intend to make the polling places safe for voter fraud is clear from their breath-takingly sham arguments against photo ID.
The conservative way is to persuade others to vote as one does. Suppose my posts have convinced 100 fence sitters to vote for Trump. Then I will have generated 101 votes for the Orange Man.
Suppose these 100 repeat my arguments to their friends. And these friends . . . . You can see how this could have a serious effect.