American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
Suppose you were a Christian living in an Iraqi village about to be conquered by ISIS, and you’ve already heard about your co-religionists murdered at the conquered village up the road. You have the choice between fleeing to a just arrived team of U.S. church pacifists trained in “interpersonal conflict transformation.” Or you could accept the protection of U.S. armed Kurdish or Iraqi armed forces, supported by U.S. air power. Which would you choose?
Radosh is rock-solid. A former lefty, he knows whereof he speaks. And of course leftists hate him mindlessly for his apostasy. Somebody ought to explore the connection between the attitudes of leftists and radical Islamists toward apostates.
In 1949, sociologist Jules Monnerot described communism as 20th century Islam. To which I add: radical Islam is the communism of the 21st century.
If Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri fame had been properly brought up to have self-control and to respect authority he might be alive today. Police have the authority to issue commands in certain circumstances as when people are violating laws by, say, walking in the street. Cops are often rude and arrogant. No doubt about it. But you still must obey their lawful commands even if rudely barked. Here is where self-control and respect for authority come in. If Brown had possessed self control, he would have kept a lid on his feelings and would have refrained from stupidly initiating an altercation with an armed officer of the law. Apart from questions of morality and legality, fighting with cops is almost always a highly imprudent thing to do. And if Brown had been properly brought up, he would have known that in a situation like this he had a duty to submit to the cop's legitimate authority. What's more, it was imprudence on stilts for Brown to act as he did right after stealing from a convenience store and roughing up the proprietor.
Similar lessons may be gleaned from the fateful encounter of Trayvon Martin with George Zimmerman. The case is worth revisiting.
One 'take-away' is the importance of self-control. If Martin had been taught, or rather had learned, to control himself he would most likely be alive today. But he didn't control himself. He blew his cool when questioned about his trespassing in a gated community on a rainy night, cutting across lawns, looking into people's houses. He punched a man in the face and broke his nose, then jumped on him, pinned him down, and told him that he was going to die that night. So, naturally, the man defended himself against the deadly attack with deadly force. What George Zimmerman did was both morally and legally permissible. If some strapping youth is pounding your head into the pavement, you are about to suffer "grave bodily harm" if not death. What we have here is clearly a case of self-defense.
Does race enter into this? In one way it does. Blacks as a group have a rather more emotional nature than whites as a group. (If you deny this, you have never lived in a black neighborhood or worked with blacks, as I have.) So, while self-control is important for all, the early inculcation of self-control is even more important for blacks. Otherwise, the case has nothing to do with race. It has to do with a man's defending himself against a thuggish attack.
Hard looks, hateful looks, suspicious looks -- we all get them from time to time, but they are not justifications for launching a physical assault on the looker. The same goes for harsh words.
If you want to be successful you must learn to control yourself. You must learn to control your thoughts, your words, and your behavior. You must learn to keep a tight rein on your feelings. Before leaving your house, you must remind yourself that you are likely to meet offensive people. Rehearse your Stoic and other maxims so that you will be ready should the vexatious and worse heave into view.
Unfortunately, too many liberals in positions of authority have abdicated when it comes to moral education. For example, they refuse to enforce discipline in classrooms. They refuse to teach morality. They tolerate bad behavior. They abdicate their authority when they refuse to teach respect for authority. So liberals, as usual, are part of the problem.
But that is to put it too mildly. There is no decency on the Left, no wisdom, and, increasingly, no sanity. For example, the crazy comparison of Trayvon Martin with Emmett Till. But perhaps I should put the point disjunctively: you are either crazy if you make that comparison, or moral scum. You are moral scum if you wittingly make a statement that is highly inflammatory and yet absurdly false.
I'd like to get my hands on a copy of Maria Reicher, ed., States of Affairs (Ontos Verlag, 2009). I didn't find it in the ASU catalog and so I headed over to Amazon.com where I found a used copy for the entirely reasonable price of $9,999.99 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. I kid you not. You might think they'd throw in free S & H on orders over $5,000.00.
Maybe it is like this. The whole world is Amazon's oyster, and in that wide world there are quite a few ontology freaks, your humble correspondent one of them, and probably a couple crazy enough to fork over $10 K for this collection of essays. So why not ask a ridiculous price? You just might get it.
Does anyone in Ontology Land have a copy of this collection that he or she is willing to part with?
I will put it to good use. I have been invited to contribute an essay to a volume commemorating the late David M. Armstrong. My essay is tentatively entitled "Facts: Realism, Anti-Realism, Semi-Realism." So I need to be en rapport with all the latest literature.
Update (9/3). My explanation three paragraphs supra is mistaken. See Mark B.'s comment for a much better one.
Christina Hoff Sommers exposes five leftist-feminist falsehoods. My favorite example is the following one which provides yet another example of the idiocy of Jimmy Carter, the Obama of the 1970s:
MYTH 2: Between 100,000 and 300,000 girls are pressed into sexual slavery each year in the United States.
FACTS: This sensational claim is a favorite of politicians, celebrities and journalists. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore turned it into a cause célèbre. Both conservatives and liberal reformers deploy it. Former President Jimmy Carter recently said that the sexual enslavement of girls in the U.S. today is worse than American slavery in the 19th century.
The source for the figure is a 2001 report on child sexual exploitation by University of Pennsylvania sociologists Richard Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. But their 100,000–300,000 estimate referred to children at risk for exploitation—not actual victims. When three reporters from the Village Voicequestioned Estes on the number of children who are abducted and pressed into sexual slavery each year, he replied, “We’re talking about a few hundred people.” And this number is likely to include a lot of boys: According to a 2008 census of underage prostitutes in New York City, nearly half turned out to be male. A few hundred children is still a few hundred too many, but they will not be helped by thousand-fold inflation of their numbers.
Here's a tip for you. When some activist or advocate makes a claim, be skeptical and run the numbers, especially when the advocate has a vested interest in promoting his cause.
Do you remember Mitch Snyder the advocate for the homeless who hanged himself in 1990? I heard him make a wild claim sometime in the '80s to the effect that the number of homeless in the U. S. was three million. At the time the population of the U.S. was around 220 million. So I rounded that up to 300 million and divided by three million. And then I knew that Snyder's claim was bogus, and probably fabricated by Snyder, as was later shown to be the case. It is simply not credible that one in 100 in the U. S. is a homeless person.
It is similarly incredible that one in 1000 girls in the U. S. is pressed into sexual slavery each year.
When Snyder admitted to Ted Koppel that he made up his number, advocates for the homeless defended his tactic as "lying for justice." See here. A nice illustration of the leftist principle that the end justifies the means. Obama implemented the principle when he lied some 30 times about the Affordable Care Act . But let's not go over that again.
There is a lot of talk these days about white privilege. I don't believe I have discussed this topic before.
1. White privilege is presumably a type of privilege. What is a privilege? This is the logically prior question. To know what white privilege is we must first know what privilege is. Let's consider some definitions.
D1. A privilege is a special entitlement or immunity granted to a particular person or group of persons by the government or some other corporate entity such as a university or a church on a conditional basis.
Driving on public roads is a privilege by this definition. It is not a right one has just in virtue of being a human being or a citizen. It is a privilege the state grants on condition that one satisfy and continue to satisfy certain requirements pertaining to age, eyesight, driving skill, etc. Being a privilege, the license to drive can be revoked. By contrast, the right to life and the right to free speech are neither conditional nor granted by the government. They can't be revoked. Please don't confuse a constitutionally protected right such as the right to free speech with a right granted by the government.
Faculty members have various privileges, a franking privilege, a library privilege, along with such perquisites as an office, a carrel, secretarial help, access to an an exclusive dining facility, etc. Immunities are also privileges, e.g., the immunity to prosecution granted to a miscreant who agrees to inform on his cohorts.
Now if (D1) captures what we mean by 'privilege,' then it it is hard to see how there could be white privilege. Are there certain special entitlements and immunities that all and only whites have in virtue of being white, entitlements and immunities granted on a conditional basis by the government and revocable by said government? No. But there is black privilege by (D1). It is called affirmative action.
So if we adopt (D1) we get the curious result that there is no white privilege, but there is black privilege! Those who speak of white privilege as of something real and something to be aware of and opposed must therefore have a different definition of privilege in mind, perhaps the following:
D2. A privilege is any unearned benefit or advantage that only some people have in virtue of their identity. It needn't be granted by any corporate entity, nor need it be conditional. Aspects of identity that can afford privilege in this sense include race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, wealth, ability, or citizenship status.
People who speak of white privilege probably have something like (D2) in mind. The idea is that there are certain unearned advantages that accrue to whites just in virtue of their race, advantages that do not accrue to members of other races.
One question arises right here. What justifies the broadening of the term 'privilege' to cover any unearned benefit? If the term is used strictly, there is no white privilege. To speak of white privlege one has to engage in a semantic stretch. What justifies this stretch? Is it a legitimate stretch or a example of linguistic distortion? And what is the agenda behind it?
One thing to note about (D2) is that it leads to a proliferation of privileges. There will be as many privileges as there are unearned benefits possessed by some but not all. For example, there will be the 'privilege' of being right-handed since this is a minor advantage -- better to be right-handed than either left-handed or ambisinistrous -- and it is unearned and not possessed by everyone. And the same goes for being ambidexterous. I lack the 'privilege' of ambidexterity, being right-handed only, and so I am disadvantaged relative to the ambidexterous. But I am not as disadvantaged relative to the ambidexterous as the ambisinistrous. They are the worst off when it comes to handedness. Should they receive something like reparations for nature's niggardliness?
Now clearly all of us enjoy all sorts of unearned benefits. Tall men, of whatever race, have an unearned advantage over short men, as long as they are not too tall. In the USA at least it is better to be 6'1" rather than 4'11". (D2) therefore implies that there is a tallness privilege in some cultures. Is this a problem? Does justice demand that heights be equalized? And who will appoint and equalize the Procrustean equalizers? Or are the equalizers exempt from equalization? If so, this would be an immunity, hence a 'privilege,' a leftist privilege.
Blacks born in the post-war USA have an unearned advantage over both whites and blacks born in some other parts of the world. Blacks born into two-parent homes in the USA have an unearned advantage over blacks born into single-parent homes in the USA. Blacks born without birth defects have an unearned advantage over blacks born with birth defects. Many blacks born without birth defects have an unearned advantage over some whites born with birth defects. And so on.
If there is an advantage to being white, is this an advantage enjoyed by all whites? And if it is not shared by all whites, why should this advantage be called white privilege? Do 'poor white trash' share in white privilege? Wouldn't it be better to be born into a solid, middle-class two-parent black or Hispanic family than to be born into a 'poor white trash' family? Do rednecks and Southerners generally share in white privilege? It didn't seem to help Paula Deen very much.
What is the relation between white privilege and majority privilege? I grant that, ceteris paribus, it is better to be white than black in the USA at the present time. But how much of this advantage is due to whites' being a majority? When Hispanics become a majority in California, say, will there be talk of Hispanic privilege? Should Hispanics then start feeling guilty about their unearned advantage?
Here is an important question. Am I not entitled to my unearned benefits despite the fact that I have done nothing to earn them? My being tall is not my own doing, and I don't do much of anything besides staying alive to keep myself tall. I don't work at it in the way I work at improving my mind and work at maintaining my physical and fiscal fitness.
Suppose you are a black male born in the post-war USA into a middle-class, two-parent, loving home. You have all sorts of unearned benefits. Do you feel guilty because you have unearned benefits that a lot of 'poor white trash' lack? Should you feel guilty? Change the example slightly: you were born in London and have the unearned benefit of a British accent. You come to the States and are hired by CNN or FOX News, beating out white competitors, in large part because of that beautiful and charming accent. Do you 'check' your privilege or feel guilty about it? Does it bother you that a Southern accent is a definite disadvantage?
So those are some questions that come to mind when I think about white privilege. I'll end with a bit of analysis of an interesting quotation (from second article below):
Those of us who are white and male in the U.S. were born with significantly more chips to play the poker game of life than were people of color or women. Although our white, male status is a biological reality, the unearned benefits that our race and gender identity provides us are a social construction, that is—they are special perks granted by a white patriarchal society.
The second sentence is gibberish. Males are on average taller than females. Being tall is an unearned benefit, but surely it is no social construction. The very notion of social construction is dubious by itself. What does the phrase mean? Care to define it? It smacks of the fallacy of hypostatization. There is this entity called 'society' that constructs things? I am not saying the phrase 'social construction' cannot be given a coherent meaning; I'm just saying that I would like to know what that meaning is. Define it or drop it.
Perk? Isn't that what the coffee does -- or used to do back in the day? The word our 'professor' wants is 'perquisite.' As I suggested above, perquisites are privileges. So what the 'professor' is doing is conflating privileges with unearned benefits. That conflation needs to be either justified or dropped. We are told that these 'perks' are granted by a white patriarchal society? Smells like the fallacy of hypostatization again. Where can I find the group of people who collectvely decide to grant these special 'perks' to white people?
I could go on, but this is enough 'shovelling' for one day.
Summer once again subsides into the sweetness of September. This calls for a song, September in the Rain, not that there is much that could be called rain in these parts. But the Arizona monsoon looks to be over, the lambent light and delicious dryness have returned, and autumn's in the air. Life is good, for some of us leastways, and pro tempore.
Let's begin by reviewing some grammar. 'Walking' is the present participle of the infinitive 'to walk.' Present participles are formed by adding -ing to the verb stem, in our example, walk. Participles can be used either nominally or adjectivally. A participle used nominally is called a gerund. A gerund is a verbal noun that shares some of the features of a verb and some of the features of a noun. Examples:
Walking is good exercise. Sally enjoys walking. Tom prefers running over walking. Rennie loves to talk about running.
As the examples show, gerunds can occur both in subject and in object position.
Participles can also be used adjectivally as in the following examples:
The boy waving the flag is Jack's brother. Sally is walking. The man walking is my neighbor. The man standing is my neighbor Bob; the man sitting is his son Billy Bob. The Muslim terrorist cut the throat of the praying journalist.
Now what about the dreaded fused participles against which H. W. Fowler fulminates? In the following example-pairs the second item features a fused participle:
She likes my singing. She likes me singing.
John's whistling awoke her. John whistling awoke her.
Sally hates Tom's cursing. Sally hates Tom cursing.
If you have a good ear for English, you will intuitively reject the second item in these pairs. They really should grate against your linguistic sensibility even if you don't know what it means to say that gerunds take the possessive. That is, a word immediately preceding a gerund must be in the possessive case. A fused participle, then, is a participle used as a noun preceded by a modifier, whether a noun or a pronoun, that is not in the possessive.
Fused participles, most of them anyway, are examples of bad grammar. But why exactly? Is it just a matter of non-standard, 'uneducated,' usage? 'I ain't hungry' is bad English but it is not illogical. Fused participles are not just bad usage, but logically bad inasmuch as they elide a distinction, confusing what is different.
This emerges when we note that the members of each of the above pairs are not interchangeable salva significatione. It could be that she likes my singing, but she doesn't like me. And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
In the second example, it could be that the first sentence is false but the second true. It could be that John, who was whistling, awoke her, but it was not his whistling that awoke her, but his thrashing around in bed.
The third example is like the first. It could be that Sally hates the sin, not the sinner. She hates Tom's cursing but she loves Tom, who is cursing.
Is every use of a fused particular avoidable? This sentence sports a fused participle:
The probability of that happening is near zero.
The fused participle is avoided by rewriting the sentence as
The probability of that event's happening is near zero.
But is the original sentence ungrammatical without the rewriting? Technically, yes. One should write
The probability of that's happening is near zero
although that is perhaps not as idiomatic as the original. In any case, one would have to be quite the grammar nazi to spill red ink over this one.
According to Panayot Butchvarov, "Fused participles are bad logic, not just bad usage." ("Facts" in Cumpa, ed., Studies in the Ontology of Reinhardt Grossmann, Ontos Verlag, 2010, p. 87.) In Skepticism in Ethics, Butch claims that a fused participle such as 'John flipping the switch' is as "grammatically corrupt" as 'I flipping the switch.' (Indiana UP, 1989, p. 14.)
I think Butch goes too far here. Consider the sentence I wrote above:
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
I don't agree that this sentence is grammatically corrupt. It strikes me as grammatically acceptable, fused participle and all. It expresses a clear thought, one that is different from the thought expressed by
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like my singing or my doing anything else.
The first is true, the second false. If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me when I am singing, shaving, showering, or doing the third of the three 's's.
So we ought not say that every use of a fused participle is grammatically corrupt. We ought to say that fused participles are to be avoided because they elide the distinctions illustrated by the above three contrasts. The trouble with 'I hate my daughter flunking the exam' is not that it is ungrammatical but that it fails to express the thought that the speaker (in the vast majority of contexts) has in mind, namely, that the object of hatred is the flunking not the daughter.
What does this have to do with ontology?
Some of us maintain that a contingent sentence such as 'John is whistling' cannot just be true: it has need of an ontological ground of its being true. In other words, it has need of a truth-maker. Facts are popular candidates for the office of truth-maker. Thus some of us want to say that the truth-maker of 'John is whistling' is the fact of John's whistling. Butchvarov, however, rejects realism about facts. One of his arguments is that we have no way of referring to them. Sentence are not names, and so cannot be used to refer to facts.
But 'John's whistling' fares no better. It stands for a whistling which is an action or doing. It does not stand for a fact. For this reason, some use fused participles to refer to facts. Thus, the fact of John whistling. Butch scotches this idea on the ground that fused participles are "bad logic" and "grammatically corrupt."
I don't find Butchvarov's argument compelling. As I argued above, there are sentences featuring fused participles that are perfectly grammatical and express definite thoughts. My example, again, is 'If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.' So I don't see why 'John whistling' cannot be used as a name of the fact that is the truth-maker of 'John is whistling.'
A lonely soldier cleans his gun and dreams of Galveston.
A slacker standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona spies a girl in a flatbed Ford.
Johnny Rivers heads East via Phoenix and Albuquerque.
From Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah, this sojourner of the American night has driven every kind of rig that's ever been made.
Update (9/1). Ed Farrell writes, "The Little Feat version of I'm Willin is a good one. But my favorite version will probably remain the one done by Seatraincirca 1970--which was the standard road song for Sierra climbing trips in late high school/college. Seatrain never really took off as a band but their musicianship was quite good though their style was difficult to pigeonhole."
That is a good version, indeed better than Little Feat's. There were a lot of great bands back in the day that never really made it. Another is Fever Tree. I remember hearing them circa '68 live at a club called The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood or West L. A. Give a careful listen to The Sun Also Rises.
Ed also recommends Seatrain's version of the Carole King composition, Creepin Midnight. Produced by George Martin.
Finally, please take a look at Ed's spectacular photography.
Leftists freely label poor whites as "redneck," "white trash," "trailer trash," and "hillbilly." At the same time that leftists toss around these racist and classist slurs, they are so sanctimonious they forbid anyone to pronounce the N word when reading Mark Twain aloud. President Bill Clinton's advisor James Carville succinctly summed up leftist contempt for poor whites in his memorable quote, "Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."
[BV adds: Carville's remark was in reference to Paula Jones who had sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Carville's innuendo was to the effect that Jones was a piece of 'trailer trash.']
The left's visceral hatred of poor whites overflowed like a broken sewer when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008. It would be impossible, and disturbing, to attempt to identify the single most offensive comment that leftists lobbed at Palin. One can report that attacks on Palin were so egregious that leftists themselves publicly begged that they cease; after all, they gave the left a bad name. The Reclusive Leftist blogged in 2009 that it was a "major shock" to discover "the extent to which so many self-described liberals actually despise working people." The Reclusive Leftist focuses on Vanity Fair journalist Henry Rollins. Rollins recommends that leftists "hate-fuck conservative women" and denounces Palin as a "small town hickoid" who can be bought off with a coupon to a meal at a chain restaurant.
[. . .]
6) I believe in God.
Read Marx and discover a mythology that is irreconcilable with any other narrative, including the Bible. Hang out in leftist internet environments, and you will discover a toxic bath of irrational hatred for the Judeo-Christian tradition. You will discover an alternate vocabulary in which Jesus is a "dead Jew on a stick" or a "zombie" and any belief is an arbitrary sham, the equivalent of a recently invented "flying spaghetti monster." You will discover historical revisionism that posits Nazism as a Christian denomination. You will discover a rejection of the Judeo-Christian foundation of Western Civilization and American concepts of individual rights and law. You will discover a nihilist void, the kind of vacuum of meaning that nature abhors and that, all too often, history fills with the worst totalitarian nightmares, the rough beast that slouches toward Bethlehem.
[Memo to BV: Write a series of posts exploring the common abyss of nihilism at the bottom of both militant Islam, the recent actions of Hamas being a prime instance of this, and at the bottom of leftism.]
When I first saw this article, I thought to myself, "Oh boy, another load of stinking, steaming, scientistic bullshit by some know-nothing science writer or physicist for me to sink my logic shovel into!"
You have heard it said, 'Take the bull by the horns.' But I say unto you, 'Take the bull by the shovel!'
But then I started reading and realized that the author knows what he is talking about. Philosophers won't find anything new here, but it is an adequate piece of popular writing that may be of use to the educated layman.
I just heard Dennis Prager say that he never mocks his ideological opponents. If I had his ear, I would put to him the question, "Do think there are no conceivable circumstances in which mockery of an ideological opponent is morally justified?"
If he answered in the affirmative, then I would press him on how this comports with his conviction that there are circumstances in which the use of physical violence against human beings is morally justified.
I would urge that if the latter is morally justified, and it is, then the former, a sort of verbal violence, is morally justified. In battling evil people and their pernicious views, all means at our disposal should be employed, it being understood that the appeal to reason and fact is the tactic of first resort.
The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent. A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities -- for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are also major victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.
I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it is 'racism' and 'white privilege' and 'a war on blacks' that explain the deep problems of the black 'community,' or rather the sorts of facts that Professor Williams adduces. Before you dismiss him as an 'Uncle Tom' or an oreo, black on the outside, white on the inside, please think through what he has to say.
(If Williams is an oreo, what is Obama? A mulatto oreo? White on the inside -- as witness his obsession with golf and other ways in which he 'acts white' -- but black and white on the outside?)
Richard Dawkins reviews Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? (Oxford, 1996) here. What follows are the meatiest excerpts from Dawkins' review together with my critical comments. I have bolded the passages to which I object.
Swinburne is ambitious. He will not shrink into those few remaining backwaters which scientific explanation has so far failed to reach. He offers a theistic explanation for those very aspects of the world where science claims to have succeeded, and he insists that his explanation is better. Better, moreover, by a criterion likely to appeal to a scientist: simplicity. He shows that his heart is in the right place by convincingly demonstrating why we should always prefer the simplest hypothesis that fits the facts. But then comes the great banana skin experience. By an amazing exploit of doublethink, Swinburne manages to convince himself that theistic explanations are simple explanations.
It is not true that Swinburne offers an explanation for those very aspects of the world where science claims to have succeeded. Part of what Swinburne is saying is that there are aspects of the world that theism can explain but that materialism cannot explain. But let's back up a bit.
Swinburne rightly points out that "intellectual enquiry demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts." (49) But on a materialist explanation there are more brute facts than on a theistic explanation, and Swinburne takes this as a point in favor of theism. One thing that science cannot explain but that theism can explain is the fact that every electron has the same causal powers and liabilities as every other one in the universe. Indeed, the same goes for every kind of particle and every kind of macro-object as well: tigers here behave like tigers elsewhere, bread nourishes an Eskimo no less than it nourishes a Mexican, etc.
A rational enquirer, however, cannot just accept that it is a brute fact that every electron has the powers and liabilities of every other one. Reason demands an explanation of that fact. Swinburne offers the following analogy. "If all the coins found on an archaeological site have the same markings, or all the documents in a room are written with the same characteristic handwriting, we look for an explanation in terms of a common source. The apparently coincidental cries out for explanation." (50) Now back to Dawkins:
Science explains complex things in terms of the interactions of simpler things, ultimately the interactions of fundamental particles. I (and I dare say you) think it a beautifully simple idea that all things are made of different combinations of fundamental particles which, although exceedingly numerous, are drawn from a small, finite set. If we are sceptical, it is likely to be because we think the idea too simple. But for Swinburne it is not simple at all, quite the reverse.
His reasoning is very odd indeed. Given that the number of particles of any one type, say electrons, is large, Swinburne thinks it too much of a coincidence for so many to have the same properties. One electron, he could stomach. But billions and billions of electrons, all with the same properties, that is what really excites his incredulity. For him it would be simpler, more natural, less demanding of explanation, if all electrons were different from each other. Worse, no one electron should naturally retain its properties for more than an instant at a time, but would be expected to change capriciously, haphazardly and fleetingly from moment to moment. That is Swinburne’s view of the simple, native state of affairs. Anything more uniform (what you or I would call more simple) requires a special explanation.
[I]t is only because electrons and bits of copper and all other material objects have the same powers in the twentieth century as they did in the nineteenth century that things are as they are now. (Is There a God? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. p. 2. [Dawkins gets the pagination wrong. This passage is on p. 42.])
Now where does Swinburne say what Dawkins attributes to him in the bolded passage? What Swinburne is saying is that science must take it to be a brute fact that electrons (e.g.) have the same powers and liabilities everywhere and everywhen. He is not saying that their natural tendency is not to have the same powers and liabilities. In other words, Swinburne does not invoke God to explain why electrons don't follow a natural tendency to collapse into irregularity; he invokes God to explain why they are regular. Returning to Dawkins:
Enter God. God comes to the rescue by deliberately and continuously sustaining the properties of all those billions of electrons and bits of copper, and neutralising their otherwise ingrained inclination to wild and erratic fluctuation. That is why when you’ve seen one electron you’ve seen them all, that is why bits of copper all behave like bits of copper, and that is why each electron and each bit of copper stays the same as itself from microsecond to microsecond. It is because God is constantly hanging on to each and every particle, curbing its reckless excesses and whipping it into line with its colleagues to keep them all the same.
It seems to me that Dawkins, whose tone betrays an unwillingness to grapple seriously with what Swinburne is saying, simply does not understand Swinburne's point. It is not that the fundamental particles are inclined to erratic fluctuation and that God must be brought in to keep them in line. It is rather that the fact of their regular behavior cannot be explained by science but must be taken to be a brute fact -- in violation of the principle that animates all science and inquiry, namely, to push explanations as far as one can and to admit as few brute facts as possible.
Swinburne, impressed by the regularity of nature, asks why it is regular. Dawkins, however, takes the regularity for granted and considers it to be a brute given. Thus at any time the regularity of nature has no explanation. But it is worse than this since over time there can be no explanation of why things having certain powers exist at all. As Swinburne puts it, "The present powers of objects may have been brought about by a past cause, but their present continuing in existence is -- on the materialist hypothesis -- an ultimate brute fact." (42)
In other words, the materialist must take to it to be a brute fact that the universe continues to exist.
Theism is arguably superior to materialism because it explains more with less. Its explanation is relatively simple whereas that of materialism must postulate innumerable separate objects that just happen to have the same powers as each other.
The materialist, one could say, tolerates an unacceptable amount of brute-factuality. Consider all the samples of boiling water that have ever existed. Not only is it a brute fact that all of these samples exhibit the propensity to boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea-level, but is is also a brute fact that each of these samples exists. But it is worse than this since each sample is composed of H2O molecules which are composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which are composed of electrons, protons, and so on down the line, where at each level there are inexplicable regularities and inexplicable existences.
I don't say that Swinburne's case for theism is absolutely compelling, but it is quite reasonable, and indeed more reasonable that Dawkin's case for materialism. But even if you disagree with me on the last point, I hope I have convinced you that Dawkin's critical remarks contra Swinburne are quite worthless.
It occurred to me this morning that there is a connection between the two.
Suppose a person asserts that abortion is morally wrong. Insofar forth, a bare assertion which is likely to elicit the bare counter-assertion, 'Abortion is not morally wrong.' What can be gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied without breach of logical propriety, a maxim long enshrined in the Latin tag Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. So one reasonably demands arguments from those who make assertions. Arguments are supposed to move us beyond mere assertions and counter-assertions. Here is one:
Infanticide is morally wrong There is no morally relevant difference between abortion and infanticide Ergo Abortion is morally wrong.
Someone who forwards this argument in a concrete dialectical situation in which he is attempting to persuade himself or another asserts the premises and in so doing provides reasons for accepting the conclusion. This goes some distance toward removing the gratuitousness of the conclusion. THe conclusion is supported by reasons that are independent of the conclusion. But suppose he gave this argument:
Abortion is the deliberate and immoral termination of an innocent pre-natal human life Ergo Abortion is morally wrong.
The second argument is a clear example of petitio principii, begging the question. While the premise entails the conclusion, it does not support it with a reason independent of the conclusion. The argument 'moves in a circle' presupposing the very thing it needs to prove.
So the second 'argument' merely appears to be an argument: it us really just an assertion in the guise of an argument, and a gratuitous assertion at that. But what is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied.
So there we have the connection between Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur and Petitio principii.
Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People," in A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Harcourt, 1955, p. 185:
One day Mrs. Hopewell had picked up one of the books the girl had just put down and opening it at random, she read, "Science, on the other hand, has to assert its soberness and seriousness afresh and declare that it is concerned solely with what-is. Nothing -- how can that be anything but a horror and a phantasm? If science is right, then one thing stands firm: science wishes to know nothing of nothing. Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing." These words had been underlined with a blue pencil and they worked on Mrs. Hopewell like some evil incantation in gibberish. She shut the book quickly and went out of the room as if she were having a chill.
It is for me to know and you to guess: from which famous/notorious essay of Heidegger is Miss O'Connor quoting?
Lincoln and Obama share the Illinois connection. There the similiarity ends. And the Maureen Dowd parody begins:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL.
London Ed finds Meinong's characteristic thesis contradictory. "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim, of course, so how can 'they' have no being?"
I say that Ed begs the question against Meinong, but Ed denies that he does. Let us see if we can sort this out.
To simplify the discussion and to avoid being sidetracked by the question about modes of being and whether existence and subsistence are distinct modes of being, let us focus on what is characteristically Meinongian, namely, the claim that some objects have no being at all. Earlier philosophers had held that there are modes of being, but what is characteristically Meinongian is that claim that some objects, or better, items, have no being whatsoever.
We can therefore simplify Ed's rhetorical question as follows, "The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim, so how can 'they' have no being?" This question suggest the following argument:
1. The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim.
2. An existential claim is one that affirms the being or existence of one or more items.
3. The claim that some objects have no being is self-contradictory since it is equivalent to 'There exist objects that do not exist' or 'There are objects that are not' or 'Some existing objects do not exist.'
It is this argument that I claim begs the question against the Meinongian. It begs the question at premise (1). For (1) is precisely what the Meinongian denies when he affirms that some objects have no being.
There is no need for the phrase 'beg the question' lest that be a further stumbling block for Ed and bone of contention between us. The point is simply that Ed assumes what the Meinongian denies. If you merely oppose me, or contradict me, then you haven't refuted me.
The Meinongian runs the above argument in reverse: he grants (2), but then argues from the negation of (3) to the negation of (1). Or we can put the matter in terms of an antilogism or inconsistent triad:
1. The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim.
2. An existential claim is one that affirms the being or existence of one or more items.
~3. The claim that some objects have no being is not self-contradictory.
The limbs cannot all be true. (2) cannot be reasonably disputed. The Meinongian solves the problem by rejecting (1), Ed by rejecting (~3).
I say there is a stand-off. I would like Ed to concede this. The concession would be minimal since it does not prevent him from providing independent reasons for rejecting Meinong's Theory of Objects. But I know Ed and I am not sanguine about him conceding anything, even the most self-evident of points.
I fear that he will say that 'some' by its very meaning is ontologically loaded, that 'Some Fs are Gs' MEANS 'There exists an x such that x is F and x is G.'
But I will not respond to this until and unless Ed verifies my fear.
In Terrorism and Other Religions, Cole argues that "Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions." Although we conservatives don't think all that highly of Bill Maher, we cheered when he pointed out the obvious, namely, that Islam, and Islam alone at the present time, is the faith whose doctrines drive most of the world's terrorism, and that the Left's moral equivalency 'argument' is "bullshit" to employ Maher's terminus technicus. Why should pointing out what is plainly true get Maher labeled a bigot by Cole?
So I thought I must be missing something and that I needed to be set straight by Professor Cole. So I read his piece carefully numerous times. Cole's main argument is that, while people of "European Christian heritage" killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, Muslims have killed only about two million during that same period. But what does this show? Does it show that Islamic doctrine does not drive most of the world's terrorism at the present time? Of course not.
That is precisely the issue given that Cole is contesting what "the bigot" Maher claimed. What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi. This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. If the thesis is that Muslims who take Islam seriously are the cause of most of the world's terrorism at the present time, this thesis cannot be refuted by pointing out that people of "European Christian heritage" have killed more people than Muslims. For this is simply irrelevant to the issue in dispute. (I note en passant that this is why ignoratio elenchi is classifed as a fallacy of relevance.)
Someone born and raised in a Christian land can be called a Christian. But it doesn't follow that such a person is a Christian in anything more than a sociological sense. In this loose and external sense the author of The Anti-Christ was a Christian. Nietzsche was raised in a Christian home in a Christian land by a father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, who was a Lutheran pastor. Similarly, Hitler was a Christian. And Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a Muslim. But were Ataturk's actions guided and inspired by Islamic doctrine? As little as Hitler's actions were guided and inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a list of some of Ataturk's anti-Islamic actions.
Having exposed the fundamental fallacy in Cole's article, there is no need to go through the rest of his distortions such as the one about the Zionist terrorists during the time of the British Mandate.
Why do leftists deny reality? A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.'
That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Nazi-phobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values.
I don't much like law enforcement agents (qua law enforcement agents) and I try to avoid contact with them, not because I violate laws or have something to hide, but because I understand human nature, and I understand how power corrupts people, not inevitably, but predictably. Cops and sheriffs are too often arrogant, disrespectful, and willing to overstep their lawful authority. I know that from my own experience with them, and I am a middle-class, law-abiding, white male who avoids trouble.
But there is a species of varmint that I like even less than law enforcement agents: criminals and scofflaws. They are the scum of the earth. To clean up scum you need people who are willing to get dirty and who share some of the attributes of those they must apprehend and incarcerate. I mean such attributes as courage, cunning, some recklessness, with a dash of ruthlessness thrown in for good measure. Government and its law enforcement agencies are a necessary evil. Necessary evils are those things we need, given the actual state of things, but that we would not need and would be bad to have if we lived in an ideal world. Paradoxically, necessary evils are instrumentally good.
That government and its law enforcement agencies are necessary evils is not pessimism, but realism. There are anarchists and others who dream of a world in which good order arises spontaneously and coercive structures are unnecessary. I want these anarchists and others to be able to dream on in peace. For that very reason, I reject their dangerous utopianism.
The backstory of Ferguson was that out of the millions of arrests each year only about 100 African-American suspects are shot fatally by white police. And yet we were falsely and ad nauseam told that Michael Brown was proof of an epidemic. There may well be an epidemic of blacks killing blacks, of African-Americans engaging in the knock-out game against non-blacks or flash-mobbing stores. But as far as rare interracial gun violence goes, in 2014 it is more commonly black on white. Ferguson is an anomaly that did not warrant hundreds of reporters who gladly skipped the real dramas of a world on the verge of blowing apart as it had in 1939.
Right. Ferguson is almost entirely a media invention.
[. . .] We are back to an O.J./Duke Lacrosse/Trayvon landscape, in which larger and mostly unsolvable issues loom — and yet cannot be discussed: the one side silently seethes: “Please, do not commit 50% of the violent crime in America at rates four times your demographic, and, please, stop shooting nearly 7,000 fellow African-Americans a year, to ensure that there is less likelihood to encounter the police — in other words, restore the family, cease the violent and misogynist hero worship, and be wary of government dependence.” And the other side simmers: “Create for us the economic and social conditions in which we have equal opportunity without prejudice and stop the police from inordinately harassing us.” Amid that growing divide, which is now some 60 years old, all the trillions of dollars of the Great Society, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and an array of “activists,” all the latest criminological and sociopolitical theories, and trillions of man-hours of social work have come apparently to naught.
[. . .]
Yet if our power brokers chose to live in the inner city, to enroll their children in public schools, and to visit local neighborhood establishments, perhaps they could marry their often loud abstract anguish with quiet concrete experience. Instead, we get the impressions that the Michael Browns and Trayvon Martins of America are the sort of fodder that the race industry elite and the white liberal grandees devour for their own respective careerist and psychological purposes. Because of inner-city pathologies and disparities, affirmative action is now perpetual and yet largely benefits those elites who have little in common with those who commit 50% of the nation’s homicides, while privileged liberals understand that if they don’t transmogrify Ferguson, Missouri, into Bull Connor and Lester Maddox, then their own apartheid existence and abstract anguish are called into question.
Peter Lupu has called me a recluse. I have referred to myself as reposing in Bradleyan reclusivity. But I am a hermit only in an analogous sense. For my hermithood is but partial and participated in comparison to the plenary hermithood of this dude. He approximates unto the Platonic Form thereof. Compared to him, Seldom Seen Slim is a man about town, a veritable social animal. Take a gander at Slim:
A musician needs a muse. George Harrison and Eric Clapton found her in Pattie Boyd. Here are five of the best known songs that she is said to have inspired. If you don't love at least four of these five, you need a major soul adjustment.
Until he hung hanged himself, that is. Williams, that is.
I knew who Williams was, though I have seen only two of his films, The Dead Poets' Society and Mrs. Doubtfire. From what I know of the others I have no desire to see them. The gushing over celebrities at their passing is as tolerable as it is predictable. One only wishes that people had better judgment about who is really worthy of the highest accolades and encomia.
Here is the memorable carpe diem scene from The Dead Poets' Society. I think Dalrymple would appreciate it.
For Meinong, some objects neither exist nor subsist: they have no being at all. The stock examples are the golden mountain and the round square.
London Ed finds this contradictory. "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim, of course, so how can 'they' have no being?"
But of course it is not an existential claim from a Meinongian point of view. Obviously, if it is true that some objects are beingless, then 'Some objects are beingless' is not an existential claim. On the other hand, if it is true that sentences featuring the particular quantifier 'some' all make existential claims, then 'Some objects are beingless' is self-contradictory.
So the Grazer can say to the Londoner: "You are begging the question against me!" And the Londoner can return the 'compliment.' The Phoenician stands above the fray, merely observing it, as from Mt. Olympus.
So far, then, a stand-off. Ed has not refuted the Meinongian; he has merely opposed him.
Ed needs to admit this and give us a better argument against the thesis of Aussersein.
I just deleted a suspicious looking e-mail that claimed that I had to appear in court in Costa Mesa re: illegal use of software. I of course did not open the zip file that would have invited a trojan horse or some other piece of malware into my motherboard. One dead giveaway was that while Mesa is not far from here, Costa Mesa is in California. I am a native Californian. (Which fact implies, by the way, that I am a native American!)
It is hard to fool a philosopher. We are trained skeptics. It is especially hard to fool a philosopher who knows his Schopenhauer. Homo homini lupus, et cetera.
Never click on any link thoughtlessly. To be on the safe side, delete suspicious looking e-mail from the subject line. Don't even open them.
Another rule of mine is: Never allow your body or soul to be polluted. So if I get an e-mail with a nasty subject line, I delete it straightaway. If the subject line is OK but the first line is hostile or nasty, same thing. Go ahead, punk. Make my day.
In "Vacuous Names and Fictional Entities" (in Philosophical Troubles, Oxford UP, 2011, pp. 52-74) Saul Kripke distances himself from the following view that he ascribes to Alexius Meinong:
Many people have gotten confused about these matters because they have said, 'Surely there are fictional characters who fictionally do such-and-such things; but fictional characters don't exist; therefore some view like Meinong's with a first-class existence and a second-class existence, or a broad existence and a narrow existence, must be the case'.23 This is not what I am saying here. (p. 64)
Footnote 23 reads as follows:
At any rate, this is how Meinong is characterized by Russell in 'On Denoting'. I confess that I have never read Meinong and I don't know whether the characterization is accurate. It should be remembered that Meinong is a philosopher whom Russell (at least originally) respected; the characterization is unlikely to be a caricature.
But it is a caricature and at this late date it is well known to be a caricature. What is astonishing about all this is that Kripke had 38 years to learn a few basic facts about Meinong's views from the time he read (or talked) his paper in March of 1973 to its publication in 2011 in Philosophical Troubles. But instead he chose to repeat Russell's caricature of Meinong in his 2011 publication. Here is what Kripke could have quickly learned about Meinong's views from a conversation with a well-informed colleague or by reading a competent article:
Some objects exist and some do not. Thus horses exist while unicorns do not. Among the objects that do not exist, some subsist and some do not. Subsistents include properties, mathematical objects and states of affairs. Thus there are two modes of being, existence and subsistence. Spatiotemporal items exist while ideal/abstract objects subsist.
Now what is distinctive about Meinong is his surprising claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist. The objects that neither exist nor subsist are those that have no being at all. Examples of such objects are the round square, the golden mountain, and purely fictional objects. These items have properties -- actually not possibly -- but they have no being. They are ausserseiend. Aussersein, however, is not a third mode of being.
Meinong's fundamental idea, whether right or wrong, coherent or incoherent, is that there are subjects of true predications that have no being whatsoever. Thus an item can have a nature, a Sosein, without having being, wihout Sein. This is the characteristic Meinongian principle of the independence of Sosein from Sein.
Kripke's mistake is to ascribe to Meinong the view that purely fictional items are subsistents when for Meinong they have no being whatsoever. He repeats Russell's mistake of conflating the ausserseiend with the subsistent.
The cavalier attitude displayed by Kripke in the above footnote is not uncommon among analytic philosophers. They think one can philosophize responsibly without bothering to attend carefully to what great thinkers of the tradition have actually maintained while at the same time dropping their names: Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Brentano, Meinong. For each of these I could given an example of a thesis attributed to them that has little or nothing to do with what they actually maintained.
Does the cavalier attitude of most analytic philosophers to the history of philosophy matter? In particular, does it matter that Kripke and plenty of others continue to ignore and misrepresent Meinong? And are not embarrassed to confess their ignorance? This depends on how one views philosophy in relation to its history.
When you pull in a half-million dollars a speech, why not celebrate with the "Rolls Royce" of cigars?
Former President Bill Clinton reportedly indulges in some of the world's most expensive cigars, from a Dominican Republic company whose smokes fetch up to $1,000 -- that's per cigar, not per box.
You will recall that the late Michael Brown of Ferguson fame displayed bad taste in cigars along with bad moral judgment when he shoplifted a package of Swisher Sweets in the penultimate adventure of his short life.
Treading the Middle Path, and avoiding the extremes of our first black president and of the latest poster boy of the hate-America race baiters, I recommend to you the Arturo Fuente 'Curly Head,' under $3 per stick. Cheap but good and proportional to the speaking fees a philosopher is likely to pull down.
I would like to believe that James V. Schall, S. J. has a better understanding of Catholicism than I do, but I just now read the following from his otherwise very good On Revelation:
Catholicism is a revelation, not a religion. The word “religion” refers to a virtue by which we know what we can about God by our own human rational powers, “unaided,” as they say. Revelation means that, in addition to all we know by our own powers, another source of knowledge and life exists that can address itself to us, can make itself known to us.
The first sentence in this paragraph is the conjunction of two claims. The first is that Catholicism is a revelation. The second is that Catholicism is not a religion. The second claim is plainly false. If Catholicism is not a religion, what is it? It is not a branch of mathematics or a natural science. It is not one of the Geisteswissenschaften. It is not philosophy or a branch of philosophy such as natural theology.
Schall is of course right to tie religion to human beings: God has no religion. But it doesn't follow that Catholicism is not a religion. It is a religion based on divine revelation. God reveals himself to man, and man appropriates that revelation as best he can using the limited postlapsarian resources of intellect and will and emotion at his disposal.
Schall may be confusing the genus with one of its species, religion with natural religion the Merriam-Webster definition of which is accurate:
a religion validated on the basis of human reason and experience apart from miraculous or supernatural revelation; specifically: a religion that is universally discernible by all men through the use of human reason apart from any special revelation — compare revealed religion.
Catholicism is a revealed religion and therefore a religion. Or will you argue that 'revealed' in 'revealed religion' functions as an alienans adjective? I hope not.
Now what about the first claim, namely, that Catholicism is a revelation? That's a lame way of putting it in my humble opinion. If Catholicism is a religion based on revelation, then, since religion is a human enterprise as Schall rightly notes, it involves an interaction between God and man. So it cannot be a pure revelation which is what Catholicism would have to be if it is not a religion.
Compare the Bible. It is the word of God. But that is only half of the story. The Bible is the word of God written down by men. Similarly, Catholicism is divine revelation appropriated by men. It is therefore neither purely divine nor purely human.
I could be wrong, but I don't think what I have just written is too far from Catholicism's own self-understanding.
I have been asked my opinion. But before opining it would be better to wait until we know or at least have a clearer idea of what exactly transpired between Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male, and the white police officer Darren Wilson. We know that Brown is dead and that the officer hit him with five or so rounds. (And we know that it was the shooting that caused the death.)
And we know that prior to the shooting, Brown stole some tobacco products (cigarillos in one account, Swisher Sweet cigars in another) from a convenience store, roughing up the proprietor on the way out.
The theft is not something that Wilson could have known about prior to the shooting, and even if he did know about it, that would not justify his use of deadly force against the shoplifter. Obviously.
So those are the main facts as I understand the case. I need to know more to say more, except for two comments:
1. Al Sharpton's claim that the release of the store video was a 'smear' of Brown is absurd on the face of it. One cannot smear someone with facts. To smear is to slander. It is to damage, or attempt to damage, a person's reputation by making false accusations. Sharpton is employing the often effective leftist tactic of linguistic hijacking. A semantic vehicle with a clear meaning is 'hijacked' and piloted to some leftist destination. The truth about a person can be damaging to his reputation. But if you cannot distinguish between damaging truths and damaging falsehoods, then you are as willfully stupid as the race hustler Sharpton.
2. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, called for "a vigorous prosecution" in the case and to "do everything we can to achieve justice for [Brown's] family." These statements sink to a Sharptonian level of (willful?) stupidity. For one thing, Wilson cannot be prosecuted for the killing of Brown until it has been determined that Wilson should be charged in the killing of Brown.
That Wilson killed Brown is a fact. But that he should be charged with a crime in the killing is a separate question. Only after a charge has been lodged can the judicial process begin with prosecution and defense.
Second, talk of achieving justice for Brown's family not only presupposes that Wilson has been indicted, it begs the question of his guilt: it assumes he is guilty of a crime. More fundamentally, talk of achieving justice for one party alone makes no sense. The aim of criminal proceeding is to arrive at a just outcome for both parties.
Suppose Wilson is indicted and tried. Either he is found guilty or found not guilty of the charge or charges brought against him. If he is found guilty, and is in fact guilty, then there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family If he is found not guilty, and he is in fact not guilty, then the same: there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family. Therefore, to speak of achieving justice for one of the parties alone makes no sense.
People don't understand this because they think that the victim or his family must be somehow compensated for his or their loss. But that is not the purpose of a criminal trial. It is too bad that the young black man died, but the purpose of a criminal trial is not to assuage the pain of such a loss. The purpose is simply to determine whether a person charged with a crime is guilty of it.
The high school I attended required each student to take two years of Latin. Years later the requirement was dropped. When a fundraiser contacted me for a donation, I said, "You eliminated Latin, why should I give you a donation?" He replied that the removal of Latin made room for Chinese.
What I should have said at that point was something like the following. "While the study of Asian languages and cultures and worldviews is wonderfully enriching, it must not come at the expense of the appropriation and transmission of our own culture which is Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman."
And then I could have clinched my point by quoting a couple of famous lines from Goethe's Faust, Part I, Night, lines 684-685:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
Unfortunately the schools and universities of today have become leftist seminaries more devoted to the eradication of the high culture of the West than its transmission and dissemination. These leftist seed beds have become hot houses of political correctness.
What can you do? You might think of pulling your children out of the public schools and home-schooling them or else sending them to places like Great Hearts Academies.
A recent Richard Fernandez column ends brilliantly:
We often forget that the sacred texts of mankind began as practical documents. They were checklists. And we may well rediscover this fact before the end. One can imagine the last two postmoderns crawling towards each other in the ruins of a once great city to die, and while waiting to expire engage in conversation to pass the time.
“Waldo,” the first said, “do you remember that tablet displayed in front of the Texas Statehouse. You know, back when there was a Texas?”
“Yeah, didn’t it have a whole bunch of stuff scrawled on it? Tell me again what it said,” replied the other.
“Waldo, it said, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ And ‘thou shalt not lie’.”
“Yes it also said, ‘thou shalt not steal’. Plus somewhere in the middle said, ‘thou shalt not have sex with people you weren’t married to.’”
“Yeah, I remember it now,” the second post-modern said. “What a bunch of hooey. It’s a right wing, nutjob, racist document called the Ten Commandments. It’s a religious document.”
“No Waldo,” the first replied. “That’s where you’re wrong. It ain’t no religious document. I just figured out it was a survival manual.”
Andrew McCarthy comments on the Rick Perry indictment. Alan Dershowitz: Perry indictment is "What Happens in Totalitarian Societies."
The scumbags of the Left will dismiss the folks over at NRO as right-wing nutjobs, but that won't work with Dershowitz. Or how about Jonathan Turley, who has spoken out against the lawlessness of the Obama administration? Is he a right-wing crazy?
Haven't I told you time and again that the Left is totalitarian from the bottom up, the top down, and side to side? Some say that Communism is dead. Well no, it has simply transmogrified into Obaminism.
Barack Obama is once again lamenting the charge that he is responsible for pulling all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq, claiming that the prior administration is culpable. But Obama negotiated the withdrawal himself. We know that not because of right-wing talking points, but because of the proud serial claims of reelection candidate Obama in 2011 and 2012 that he deserved credit for leaving Iraq. That complete pullout prompted Joe Biden to claim the Iraq policy was the administration’s likely “greatest achievement” and buoyed Obama to brag that he was leaving a stable and secure Iraq. Think of the logic: pulling all soldiers out of Iraq was such a great thing that I now can brag that I am not responsible for it.
In regards to Syria, does Obama remember that he issued red lines should the Assad regime use chemical or biological weapons? Why then would he assert that the international community had done so, not Barack Obama? Think of the logic: I issued tough threats, and when my bluff was called, someone else issued them.
If Obama were to readdress Benghazi, would anyone believe him? What would he say? That he was in the Situation Room that evening? That he was correct in telling the UN that a (suddenly jailed) video maker prompted the violence? That the consulate and annex were secure and known to be so? That Susan Rice was merely parroting CIA talking points? Think of the logic: a video maker was so clearly responsible for the Benghazi killings that we will never have to mention his culpability again.
Does anyone believe the president that ISIS are “jayvees,” or that al Qaeda is on the run, or that there is no connection between the ascendance of ISIS and the loud but empty boasting of red lines in Syria and complete withdrawal from Iraq? (If we had taken all troops out of South Korea in 1953 — claiming that we had spent too much blood and treasure and that the Seoul government was too inept — would there be a Kia or Hyundai today, or a North Korea in control of the entire Korean peninsula?) Think of the logic: the ISIS threat is so minimal that we need not be alarmed and therefore Obama is sending planes and advisors back into Iraq to contain it. If Obama truly believes that pulling all troops out made Iraq more secure, what will putting some back in do?
Was there any Obama boast about his Affordable Care Act that proved true: Keep your doctor? Keep your health plan? Save $2,500 in annual premiums? Lower the deficit? Lower the annual costs of health care? Win the support of doctors? Simplify sign-ups with a one-stop website? Enjoy lower deductibles? Think of the logic: you will all benefit from a new take-over of health care by a government whose assertions of what it was going to accomplish were proved false in the first days of its implementation.
There are many possible explanations about why the president of the United States simply says things that are not true or contradicts his earlier assertions or both. Is Obama just inattentive, inured to simply saying things in sloppy fashion without much worry whether they conform to the truth? Or is he a classical sophist who believes how one speaks rather than what he actually says alone matters: if he soars with teleprompted rhetoric, what does it matter whether it is true? If Obama can sonorously assert that he got America completely out of Iraq, what does it matter whether that policy proved disastrous or that he now denies that he was responsible for such a mistake?
Is Obama so ill-informed that he embraces the first idea that he encounters, without much worry whether these notions are antithetical to his own prior views or will prove impossible to sustain?
On a deeper level, Obama habitually says untrue things because he has never been called on them before. He has been able throughout his career to appear iconic to his auditors. In the crudity of liberals like Harry Reid and Joe Biden, Obama ancestry and diction gave reassurance that he was not representative of the black lower classes and thus was the receptacle of all sorts of liberal dreams and investments. According to certain liberals, he was like a god, our smartest president, and of such exquisite sartorial taste that he must become a successful president. In other words, on the superficial basis of looks, dress, and patois, Obama was reassuring to a particular class of white guilt-ridden grandees and to such a degree that what he actually had done in the past or promised to do in the future was of no particular importance.
May I offer the following resolution of the paradox? I say that 'purely fictional' does not function as a concept term. Instead, it is ambiguous between two interpretations. On the one hand, it behaves like the pseudo-concept 'inexistent'. To say that Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic is to deny that Bone exists. [BV: Biconditionality seems too strong. If N is a purely fictional F, then N doesn't exist; but if N doesn't exist, it does not follow that N is purely fictional.] The same goes whatever name and concept term we substitute for 'Bone' and 'alcoholic'. This leads us to assert
1. There are no purely fictional items.
On the other hand, I say that 'fictional and 'purely fictional' appear to be concept terms because sentences like
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic
arise via a surface transformation of
Purely fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic
and inherit their meaning and truth value. We can understand the latter as asserting that
Some work of fiction says that Bone is an alcoholic.
We take this as true, as evidenced by the work of Hamilton, and running the transformation in reverse gets us to
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic.
Taking 'purely fictional alcoholic' as a predicate, which it superficially resembles, by Existential Generalisation we arrive at
There is some purely fictional alcoholic,
and hence to
2. There are some purely fictional items.
and apparent contradiction with (1).
The idea of a surface transformation may well appear controversial and ad hoc. But the phenomenon occurs with other pseudo-concept terms, notably 'possible'. We have
Bone is a possible alcoholic <---> Possibly, Bone is an alcoholic Bone is a fictional alcoholic <---> Fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic.
On the left we have 'possible' and 'fictional' which look like concept terms but cannot be consistently interpreted as such. On the right we have sentential operators which introduce an element of semantic ascent which is not apparent on the left. It's precisely because 'possible' and 'fictional' involve hidden semantic ascent that they do not work as concept terms.
I am afraid I don't quite understand what David is saying here despite having read it many times. This could be stupidity on my part. But I think we do need to explore his suggestion that there is an equivocation on 'purely fictional items.' Let me begin by listing what we know, or at least reasonably believe, about purely fictional characters.
First of all, we know that George Bone never existed: that follows from his being purely fictional.
Second, we know or at least reasonably believe that Bone is a character created by its author Patrick Hamilton, a character who figures in Hamilton's 1941 novel, Hangover Square. Just as the novel was created by Hamilton, so were the characters in it. Admittedly, this is not self-evident. One might maintain that there are all the fictional characters (and novels, stories, plays, legends, myths, etc.) there might have been and that the novelist or story teller or playwright just picks some of them out of Plato's topos ouranos or Meinong's realm of Aussersein. I find this 'telescope' conception rather less reasonable than the artifact conception according to which Bone and Co. are cultural artifacts of the creative activities of Hamilton and Co. Purely fictional characters are made up, not found or discovered. It is interesting to note that fingere in Latin means to mold, shape, form, while in Italian it means to feign, pretend, dissemble. That comports well with what fiction appears to be. Of course I am not arguing from the etymology of 'fiction.' But if you have etymology on your side, then so much the better.
Now there is a certain tension between the two points I have just made. On the one hand, Bone does not exist. On the other hand, Bone is not nothing. He is an artifact of Hamilton's creativity just as much as the novel itself is in which he figures. How can he not exist but also not be nothing? If he is not nothing, then he exists.
If Bone were to exist, he would be a human person, a concrete item. But there is no such concretum. On the other hand, Bone is not nothing: he is an artifact created by Hamilton over a period of time in the late '30s to early '40s. Since Bone cannot be a concrete artifact -- else Hamilton would be God -- Bone is an abstract artifact. Thus we avoid contradiction. Bone the concretum does not exist while Bone the abstract artifact does. This is one theory one might propose. (Cf. Kripke, van Inwagen, Thomasson, Reicher, et al.)
Note that this solution does not require the postulation of different modes of existence/being. But it does require that one 'countenance' (as Quine would say) abstract objects (in Quine's sense of 'abstract') in addition to concrete objects. It also requires the admission that some abstract objects are contingent and have a beginning in time. The theory avoids Meinongianism but is quasi-Platonic. London Ed needs a stiff drink long about now.
Now let's bring in a third datum. We know that there is a sense in which it is true that Bone is an alcoholic and false that he is a teetotaler. How do we reconcile the truth of 'Bone is an alcoholic' with the truth of 'Bone does not exist'? There is a problem here if we assume the plausible anti-Meinongian principle that, for any x, if x is F, then x exists. (Existence is a necessary condition of property-possession.) To solve the problem we might reach for a story operator. The following dyad is consistent:
3. According to the novel, Bone is an alcoholic
4. Bone does not exist.
From (3) one cannot validily move via the anti-Meinongian principle to 'Bone exists.' But if 'Bone is an alcoholic' is elliptical for (3), then 'Bone is a purely fictional character' is elliptical for
5. According to the novel, Bone is a purely fictional character.
But (5) is false. For according to the novel, Bone is a real man.
The point I am making is that 'Bone is a purely fictional character' is an external sentence, a sentence true in reality outside of any fictional context. By contrast, 'Bone is an alcoholic' is an internal sentence: it is true in the novel but not true in reality outside the novel. If it were true outside the novel, then given the anti-Meinongian principle that nothing can have properties without existing, Bone would exist -- which is false.
I think Brightly and I can agree that a purely fictional man is not a man, and that a purely fictional alcoholic is not an alcoholic. And yet Bone is at least as real as the novel of which he is the main character. After all, there is the character Bone but no character, Son of Bone. In keeping with Brightly's notion that there is an equivocation on 'purely fictional item,' we could say the following. 'Bone' in the internal sentence 'Bone is an alcoholic' doesn't refer to anything, while 'Bone' in the external sentence 'Bone is a purely fictional character' refers to an abstract object.
We can then reconcile (1) and (2) by replacing the original dyad with
1* There are no purely fictional concreta
2* There are some purely fictional abstracta.
The abstract artifact theory allows us to accommodate our three datanic or near-datanic points. The first was that Bone does not exist. We accommodate it by saying that there is no concretum, Bone. The second was that Bone is a creature of a novelist's creativity. We accommodate that by saying that what Hamilton created was the abstract artifact, Bone*, which exists. Bone does not exist, but the abstract surrogate Bone* does. The third point was that there are truths about Bone that nevertheless do not entail his existence. We can accommodate this by saying that while Bone does not exemplify such properties as being human and being an alcoholic, he encodes them. (To employ terminology from Ed Zalta.) This requires a distinction between two different ways for an item to have a property.
I do not endorse the above solution. But I would like to hear why Brightly rejects it, if he does.
Alex L. writes, "I was interested in the post where you mentioned voting rationality. I've heard this argument as well -- that the chance your vote will influence elections is minuscule, so it's not rational to vote."
But that is not the argument. The argument is not to the conclusion that it is not rational to vote, but that it is rational for many people to remain ignorant of past and present political events and other relevant facts and principles that they would have to be well-apprised of if they were to vote in a thoughtful and responsible manner.
What is at issue is not the rationality of voting but the rationality of political ignorance.
The reason it is rational for many people to remain politically ignorant is that one's vote will have little or no effect on the outcome. To become and remain politically knowledgeable as one must be if one is to make wise decisions in the voting booth takes a considerable amount of initial and ongoing work. I think Ilya Somin has it right:
. . . political ignorance is actually rational for most of the public, including most smart people. If your only reason to follow politics is to be a better voter, that turns out not be much of a reason at all. That is because there is very little chance that your vote will actually make a difference to the outcome of an election (about 1 in 60 million in a presidential race, for example). For most of us, it is rational to devote very little time to learning about politics, and instead focus on other activities that are more interesting or more likely to be useful.
And please note that if it is rational for many to remain politically ignorant, that is consistent with the rationality of others to become and remain politically knowledgeable. I gave three reasons for someone like me to be politically savvy.
First. My goal is to understand the world as best I can. The world contains political actors, political institutions, and the like. Therefore, in pursuit of my goal it is rational to study politics.
Second. Politics is interesting the way spectator sports are. Now I don't give a flying enchilada about the latter. Politics are my sports. In brief, staying apprised of political crapola is amusing and diverting and also has the salutary effect of reminding me that man is a fallen being incapable of dragging his sorry ass out of the dreck by his own power, or, in Kantian terms, that he is a piece of crooked timber out of which no straight thing ever has been or ever will be made.
Third. Knowledge of current events in the political sphere can prove useful when it comes to protecting oneself and one's family. Knowledge of the Obaminations of the current administration, for example, allows one to to plan and prepare.
It is also worth pointing out that while political ignorance is for many if not most citizens rational, that it not to say that it is good.
Note finally that if it is not rational for most of us to acquire and maintain the political knowledge necessary to vote wisely, election after election, that is not to say that it is not rational for most of us to vote. For one can vote the way most people do, foolishly. Consider those voters who vote a straight Democrat ticket, election after election. That takes little time and no thought and may well be more rational than not voting at all. Let's say you are a welfare recipient or a member of a teacher's union or an ambulance chaser. And let's assume you are voting in a local election. Then it might be in your interest, though it would not be for the common good, to vote a straight Dem ticket. It might well be rational given that no effort is involved.
A ninety year old woman died in her home in Auburn. She had decomposed through the floor before she was found six months later. The diaries found in her belongings shed light on this lonely and brilliant mind. Watch the documentary above, and read further excerpts from her diaries below.