Andrew Sullivan recounts the perils of life in the information superhighway's fast lane.
But our man certainly is verbose. One would have thought that all that smartphone use and all that manic tweeting and updating would have induced a bit of pithiness into his writing.
I love the Internet and use it everyday except when I'm on retreat. But I have never sent a text message in my life; I do not have a Twitter account; my Facebook page languishes; I do not own a smartphone; my TracPhone account costs me a paltry $99 per year and I have thousands of unused minutes; I have a laptop and an ipad for backup but rarely use them; in the wild I use map and compass, never having bothered to buy a GPS device; I am never out and about with something stuck into my ear.
I know people who begin their day by checking text messages. You do what you want, but I say that's no way to live.
Yes, but only in the febrile 'mind' of an Hillarious liberal.
You have to realize that when Trump is 'off script,' he talks like a rude New York working man in a bar. He does this in part because it is his nature to be rude and vulgar, but also because he realizes that this helps him gin up his base.
Let me try to put his point in a more 'measured' way. His point was not that Hillary's bodyguards ought to be disarmed so that she could more easily be 'taken out.' His point is that if guns cause crime and have no legitimate uses, then why are her bodyguards armed to the teeth with the sorts of weapons that she would like to make it illegal for law-abiding citizens to possess and carry?
If guns are never the answer, why are they 'the answer' for government agents? If law-abiding citizens cannot be trusted with semi-automatic pistols and long guns, how is it that government agents can be trusted with them?
The graphic makes the point very well. Trump was not inciting violence. But if you say he was then you are slandering him and his supporters. Be careful, the Second Amendment types may 'come after you.' Politically.
UPDATE (9:25 AM). Here is what Trump said:
She [Hillary] goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. … Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.
This is another one or those questions that never goes away and about which reams of rubbish have been written.
In Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), in the section Are Atheists Evil?, Sam Harris writes:
If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers. In fact, they should be utterly immoral. (pp. 38-39)
Harris then goes on to point out something that I don't doubt is true, namely, that atheists ". . . are at least as well behaved as the general population." (Ibid.) Harris' enthymeme can be spelled out as an instance of modus tollendo tollens, if you will forgive the pedantry:
1. If religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers.
2. Atheists are not less moral than believers.
3. Religious faith does not offer the only real basis for morality.
The problem with this argument lies in its first premise. It simply doesn't follow that if religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than theists. This blatant non sequitur trades on a confusion of two questions which it is essential to distinguish.
Q1. Given some agreed-upon moral code, are people who profess some version of theism more 'moral,' i.e., more likely to live in accordance with the agreed-upon code, than those who profess some version of atheism?
The answer to this question is No. But even if the answer is Yes, I am willing to concede arguendo to Harris that it is No. In any case (Q1) is not philosophically interesting, except as part of the run-up to a genuine philosophical question, though (Q1) is of interest sociologically. Now contrast (Q1) with
Q2. Given some agreed-upon moral code, are atheists justified in adhering to the code?
The agreed-upon code is one that most or many atheists and theists would accept. Thus, don't we all object to child molestation, wanton killing of human beings, rape, theft, lying, and the swindling of investors by people like Bernard Madoff? And in objecting to these actions, we mean our objections to be more than merely subjectively valid. When our property is stolen or a neighbor murdered, we consider that an objective wrong has been done. And when the thief or murderer is apprehended, tried, and convicted we judge that something objectively right has been done. Let's not worry about the details or the special cases: killing in self-defense, abortion, etc. Just imagine some minimal objectively binding code that all or most of us, theists and atheists alike, accept.
What (Q2) asks about is the foundation or basis of the agreed-upon objectively binding moral code. This is not a sociological or any kind of empirical question. Nor is it a question in normative ethics. The question is not what we ought to do and leave undone, for we are assuming that we already have a rough answer to that. The question is meta-ethical: what does morality rest on, if on anything? For example, what justifies the shared judgment that the swindling of investors is morally wrong? Or rape, or wanton killing of people, or slavery?
There are different meta-ethical theories. Some will say that morality requires a supernatural foundation, others that a natural foundation suffices. Here you can read the transcript of a debate between Richard Taylor and William Lane Craig on this topic. I incline toward the side ably defended by Craig. Although I respect Taylor very much as a philosopher and have learned from his work, he seems to me to come across in this debate as something of a sophist and a smart-ass.
But the point of this post is not to take sides on the question of the basis of morality, but simply to point out that Sam Harris has confused two quite obviously distinct questions. For if he had kept them distinct, he would have seen that the question whether morality requires a basis in religion is logically independent of the question whether theists are more moral than atheists. He would have seen that invoking the platitude that atheists can be as morally decent as theists has no tendency to show that morality does not require a supernatural foundation. He would have seen that (1) is false.
I should add, however, that while the two questions are distinct, they are related. For if people come to believe that there is no justification for the agreed-upon moral code, then they will be less likely to adhere to it. Or suppose a person thinks that the justification for the prohibition against rape is merely prudential: it is imprudent to rape women because you may get caught and go to prison. If that were the justification, then a man without a conscience who encounters a defenceless solitary woman in an isolated place would have no reason not to have his way with her. But if the man had the belief that the moral wrongness of rape is grounded in the holy will of an omniscient deity, then the man would have a reason to resist his inclination.
Remember Fred Neil? One of the luminaries of the '60s folk scene, he didn't do much musically thereafter. Neil is probably best remembered for having penned 'Everybody's Talkin' which was made famous by Harry Nilsson as the theme of Midnight Cowboy. Here is Neil's version. Nilsson's rendition.
Another of my Fred Neil favorites is "Other Side of This Life." Here is Peter, Paul, and Mary's version.
What exactly is the alternative right (alt-right), and how does it differ from other views on the right?
Yesterday I argued that John Derbyshire's definition is useless because too broad. Jacques by e-mail contributes the following:
If the alt-right is simply the (or a) right-wing alternative to the mainstream or dominant kind of conservatism, you count as alt-right if and only if you reject at least some of the central ideas of the mainstream dominant kind of conservatism and your general orientation is right-wing. The definition does imply that the alt-right differs from some other forms of conservatism or rightism, and we can specify these kinds of differences by specifying the central tenets of mainstream conservatism. You might well be alt-right under this definition.
For example, it's a tenet of mainstream conservatism that there are no important natural racial differences; if you disagree, you're in the alt-right. You might not think so, because you don't agree with tribalists and anti-semites who also oppose mainstream conservatism for different reasons, and with different right-wing agendas. But my definition is appropriately broad and vague: the alt-right is a big tent, since there are so many things wrong with mainstream conservatism that otherwise right-wing people can object to for many different and incompatible reasons. This is how the term is being used, anyway. Lots of people who call themselves 'alt-right' and get called 'alt-right' by others are not anti-semites, for example; some of them are even (non-anti-semitic) Jews. You can be 'alt-right' under my definition even though you disagree with lots of others in the 'alt-right' about lots of important things. Just like a Calvinist and an Anglican can both be Protestants. What do you think?
I take Jacques to be saying that if I disagree with even one tenet of mainstream conservatism, then that makes me a 'big tent' alt-rightist. He brings up the question whether there are important natural racial differences, and maintains that it is a "tenet of mainstream conservatism" that there are none. I think this is correct if we take the mainstream conservative to be maintaining, not that there are no natural (as opposed to socially constructed) racial differences, but that such differences are not important. The idea is that 'blood' does not, or rather ought not matter, when it comes to questions of public policy. Consider immigration policy. Should U. S. immigration policy favor Englishmen over Zulus? If race doesn't matter, why should Englishmen be preferred? If race doesn't matter, both groups should assimilate just as well and be beneficial to the host population in the same measure.
So one question concerns what a mainstream conservative is:
Q1. Do mainstream conservatives hold that there are natural racial differences but that they don't matter, or that that there are no such natural differences to matter?
The answer depends on who best represents mainstream conservatism. What do you say, Jacques?
Suppose the mainstream conservative holds that there are natural racial differences, but that they don't matter. If I hold that they do matter, then I am not a mainstream conservative, and my position is some sort of alternative to mainstream conservatism. But I don't think that this difference alone would justify calling me an alt-rightist since 'alt-right' picks out a rather more specific constellation of theses.
John Derbyshire gives the following answer (HT: Malcolm Pollack):
So what, in my opinion, makes the Alt-Right a distinct thing — not by any means a party, a faction, or a movement, but a collection of souls with something in common?
Here's my answer: We don't like flagrant nonsense in the discussion of human affairs. We don't like being lied to. We especially don't like being lied to by credentialed academics like Jerry Coyne.
The lies are so flagrant, so outrageously obvious, you'd have to laugh at them, if not for the fact that laughing at them is close to being a criminal offense. "There is no such thing as race!" What a preposterous thing to say! What a multiply preposterous thing for an academic in the human sciences to say. Yet look! — they say it!
As Ann Coulter has quipped: It's like saying "there are no such things as mountains." When, after all, is a mountain just a hill? Similarly with "there are no such things as colors," since, after all, no-one can tell you how many colors there are, or the precise wavelength at which turquoise is more blue-ish than green-ish. How many neighborhoods are there in New York City? Beats me; so are there no such things as neighborhoods? This is infantile.
Much more to the point, it's like saying "there are no such things as families." When do you stop being a member of my family? Fourth cousin? Ninth cousin by marriage? So are there no such things as families?
But of course there are such things as families. And that's all races are: big old extended families of mostly-common deep ancestry.
This acquiescence in obvious lies — even by academics, who should be the guardians of truth — is characteristic of totalitarian societies. The money quote here is from Tony Daniels, a/k/a "Theodore Dalrymple." Quote:
>>In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is … in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.<<
Tony himself, I should say, lines up with Goodwhites in the Cold Civil War, not with us Badwhites of the Alt-Right. I very seriously doubt he'd consider himself a member of the Alt-Right. His insight there, however, is very penetrating, and could be inscribed on an Alt-Right banner, if we ever get around to brandishing banners.
And so it is with the NYU Student Council ninnies and the Student Diversity Initiative bedwetters, not one of whom is fit to shine James Watson's shoes.
They don't want to shine his shoes. They don't want to persuade or convince him. They want to humiliate him. They, midgets and mites, want to humiliate a giant, one of the world's greatest living scientists. And the cringing administrators at New York University want to help them!
That's what the Alt-Right is about; that's what unites us; disgust with, and resistance to, these liars and weasels and commissars.
While I agree with everything Derbyshire says above, though not with everything he says, the above is useless as a definition of Alt-Right. Suppose I 'define' an airplane as a vehicle. This fails as a definition, not because it is false, but because it specifies only a necessary condition for a thing's being an airplane. Every airplane is a vehicle, but not every vehicle is an airplane. An adequate definition lays down individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the application of a concept. An adequate definition of 'airplane' must list those features that make airplanes different from other vehicles.
Similarly, an adequate definition of 'alternative Right' must list those features that make alt-rightists different from other sorts of conservatives. On Derb's definition, I count as alt-right, when I am no such thing.
I hate leftist liars and crapweasels. I have contempt for Jerry Coyne, or rather his attitudes and views. (See here.) I hold that the silencing of James Watson is an outrage and a betrayal of the values and purposes of the university. I find absurd the notion that race is a social construct. No doubt racial theories are social constructs, but the notion that race and racial differences are is preposterous. I agree with Dalrymple as quoted above. And I share Derb's "disgust with, and resistance to, these liars and weasels and commissars."
So I have some serious conservative 'cred' in the sense of both credentials and credibility, not to mention the civil courage to speak the truth as I sincerely see it under my real name publicly as I have been doing since 2004.
But none of these attitudes or commitments or virtues make me alt-right.
I am not exactly sure what 'alt-right' refers to, and apparently those who fly this flag don't either, as witness Derbyshire above, but I get the impression that the position includes some very specific theses that differentiate it from other types of conservatism. I hope to go into this in more detail later, but for now I'll mention the following: white tribalism, anti-semitism, rejection of classically liberal notions such as the value of toleration, rejection of the formal (as opposed to empirical) equality of persons and with it key elements in the documents of the American founding as well as in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and a rejection of the normative universality of truth and value.
A YouTube video by William S. Lind with footage of Martin Jay, David Horowitz and Roger Kimball. Traces the origin of cultural Marxism from the breakdown of economic Marxism and the role of the Frankfurt School including discussion of the '60s New Left guru, Herbert Marcuse.
By the time I began as a freshman at Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1968, the old Thomism that had been taught out of scholastic manuals was long gone to be replaced by a hodge-podge of existentialism, phenomenology, and critical theory. The only analytic fellow in the department at the time was an adjunct with an M. A. from Glasgow. I pay tribute to him in In Praise of a Lowly Adjunct. The scholasticism taught by sleepy Jesuits before the ferment of the '60s was in many ways moribund, but at least it was systematic and presented a coherent worldview. The manuals, besides being systematic, also introduced the greats: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas, et al. By contrast, we were assigned stuff like Marcuse's Eros and Civilization. The abdication of authority on the part of Catholic universities has been going on for a long time.
Wrangling over terminology and nomenclature is a good part of what goes on in the culture wars. For he who controls the terms of the debate controls the debate. What I call semantic rehabilitation is one side of this.
'Gaffe,' for example, has a negative connotation. It refers to to a social or political blunder or misstep, a faux pas, a noticeable and usually embarrassing mistake. A recent example is Gary Johnson's query, "What's Aleppo?" which betrayed his ignorance of the fact that Aleppo is a city in Syria as opposed to, say, one of the Marx brothers. (Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, Chico . . . Aleppo!)It is perhaps not all that surprising that a Libertarian who favors marijuana legalization and a non-interventionist foreign policy would not know about Aleppo.
Semantic rehabilitation involves taking a word or phrase with a negative connotation and giving it a positive one. This morning I noticed at a couple of lefty sites the following definition of 'gaffe': "a statement that's politically damaging precisely because it's true." The authors were referring to Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" smear.
But of course that is not what 'gaffe' means. Meaning, however, is fluid, tied as it is to use. So if our lefty pals can make their mischief stick, they will have (a) narrowed the meaning of 'gaffe' and (b) given it a positive connotation.
What is the opposite of semantic rehabilitation? Whatever we call it, it is illustrated by the fate of 'checkered past,' which has come to possess a negative connotation as I demonstrate in A Checkered Past.
Martin Castro, an Obama appointee, is chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Here’s Mr. Castro: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Mr. Castro’s is the prevailing view among progressives. Barack Obama alluded to it when he derided small-town Americans bitterly clinging to guns or religion (i.e., the Second and First Amendments). Ditto for Mrs. Clinton, who in a remark about reproductive rights declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” (William McGurn, WSJ, 12 September 2016)
We should thank Mr. Castro for giving us such a clear and concise insight into the mind of the Left.
Note first the liberal-left obsession with hypocrisy. Why does it so exercise them if not because of their hatred of religion with its difficult-to-achieve moral demands? ("He who so much as looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I quote this hard saying from memory. Too hard, a lefty might say: it drives people to hypocrisy.) They hate the stringent moral demands religion makes and so they attack as hypocrites those who preach them.
To a leftist, preaching can only be 'moralizing' and 'being judgmental.' It can only be the phony posturing of someone who judges others only to elevate himself. The very fact of preaching shows one to be a hypocrite. Of course, leftists have no problem with being judgmental and moralizing about the evil of hypocrisy. When they make moral judgments, however, it is, magically, not hypocritical.
And therein lies the contradiction. They would morally condemn all moral condemnation as hypocritical. But in so doing they condemn themselves as hypocrites.
Coded Speech and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion
To understand the Left you must understand that central to their worldview is the hermeneutics of suspicion which is essentially a diluted amalgam of themes from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
Thus nothing has the plain meaning that it has; every meaning must be deconstructed so as to lay bare its 'real meaning.'
Suppose a conservative says, sincerely, "The most qualified person should get the job." Applying the hermeneutics of suspicion, the leftist takes the conservative to be speaking 'in code': what he is really saying is something like: "People of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race."
Or suppose a conservative refers to a black malefactor as a thug. What he has actually said, according to the hermeneutics of suspicion, is that the malefactor is a nigger. But 'thug' does not mean 'nigger.' 'Thug' means thug. There are thugs of all races.
Leftists often call for 'conversations' about this or that. Thus Eric Holder famously called for a 'conversation' about race. But how can one have a conversation -- no sneer quotes -- about anything with people who refuse to take what one sincerely says at face value?
One of Trump's signature sayings is "Make America great again!"
To a leftist, this is a 'racist dog whistle.' It doesn't mean what it manifestly means; there is a latent sinister meaning that we can thank Bill Clinton for exposing. It means -- wait for it -- “That message…America great again is if you’re a white Southerner, you know exactly what it means, don’t you. What it means is I’ll give you an economy you had 50 years ago and I’ll move you back up on the social totem and other people down.”
The irony is that Slick Willy used the same sentence himself!
Here we come to the nub of the matter. The liberal is a piece of moral scum who refuses to treat his political opponents as rational beings, as persons. He dehumanizes them and treats them as if they are nothing but big balls of such affects as fear and hate bereft of rational justification for the views they hold.
Trump insists that anyone residing in the United States illegally is subject to deportation. Many commentators regard such comments as inflammatory. I am baffled by their outrage. What, exactly, is meant by “illegal” if the lawbreaker is immune from consequences?
I am baffled too. No reasonable person could consider it inflammatory or hateful to enforce just and reasonable laws. Nor could any reasonable person refer to Trump's Phoenix immigration speech as 'hateful,' yet many liberal commentators did exactly that.
On the O'Reilly show recently, a seemingly intelligent liberal referred to a wall such as the one Trump proposes as "hateful." This illustrates what I call the topical insanity of liberals. On some topics they suffer cognitive melt-down. Suppose our liberal pal has security doors installed on his house to protect his wife and children. Would he consider that 'hateful'? Presumably not. But then why can't he see that drug trafficking, human trafficking, and the invasion by criminals and terrorists is something that cannot be tolerated? Why can't he see that the rule of law must be upheld even in the case of the majority of illegal immigrants who simply seek a better life? Why can't he appreciate how precious the rule of law is, and how important a role it plays in making ours a great and prosperous country that half the world wants to come to? What blinds him to the necessity of disease control via border control? What we have here on the part of liberals is either topical insanity or willful stupidity which, because willful, ought to be morally condemned.
[. . .]
The very notion of limiting immigration—building a wall—gets Trump described as “anti-immigrant.” But isn’t job number one for our political leaders to protect the interests of Americans, which surely entails restricting the number of people who can immigrate?
Of course. Note also the verbal obfuscation that contemporary liberals routinely engage in by eliding the obvious distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. Trump is not anti-immigrant, he is anti-illegal-immigrant, as we all should be.
[. . .]
Something strange is going on here, something I don’t fully understand.
It may be that Reno does not understand, or want to understand, how destructive and vicious leftists are. I suppose most of us would like to believe that most of our fellow citizens are basically decent people, morally speaking. But the evidence is against it in the case of leftists. Morally decent people, for example, don't slander their opponents. But leftists (and this includes contemporary liberals) routinely slander and disrespect their opponents in lieu of engaging their point of view. For example, if you point out the clear and present danger of radical Islam, they say or imply that you are in the grip of a phobia. Now a phobia is an irrational fear, whereas concern about the threat of radical Islam is eminently rational.
A decent person does not impugn the rationality of his interlocutor by dismissing his arguments unexamined and ascribing to him groundless fears and phobias. A decent person does not behave as Hillary Clinton recently did when she dumped 50% of Trump supporters into a "basket of deplorables."
Liberals like Bill and Hillary Clinton regularly smear their opponents and then issue hypocritical calls for 'civility.' What passes for argument among liberals is the hurling of SIXHRB epithets: sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, bigoted. (I borrow the acronym from Dennis Prager) For example, if you oppose illegal immigration then you are a xenophobe; if you carefully argue against Obamacare then you a racist; if you give reasons why marriage is between a man a woman you are dismissed as a bigot. If you oppose that slaughter of innocent human beings which is abortion you are waging war against women and interfering with their 'health' and 'reproductive rights.' If you point out the very real threat of radical Islam, then you are dismissed as an 'Islamophobe' with a mental illness.
How is it possible to resist the conclusion that Hillary and her ilk are moral scum?
[. . .]
A recent essay in Foreign Affairs by Kishore Mahbubani and Lawrence Summers, “The Fusion of Civilizations: The Case for Global Optimism,” outlines a vision for a more globalized, peaceful, and prosperous future—in which nations become less significant. Today’s emphasis on multiculturalism and “diversity” participates in this vision of the future, one in which differences are overcome and borders are irrelevant. It’s species of utopianism, to be sure, but it has a powerful grip on the moral imagination of the West.
In this view, national interest is an impediment to progress. Concerns about identity are, by definition, forms of ethnocentrism bordering on xenophobia. This is why the upsurge of populist concern about immigration . . . are so vigorously denounced by mainstream politicians, journalists, and political commentators.
The above is not only utopian, but incoherent. On the one hand we are told that "diversity" promotes the overcoming of differences and the making irrelevant of borders. But what is "diversity" if not a celebration of differences? An emphasis on "diversity" leads to identity politics which is supposedly what the above authors oppose. There can be no comity without commonality.
Liberals falsely imagine that we are all the same and that we all have the same values. That is manifestly not the case. Most Muslims do not share our Enlightenment values. This is why there can be peace with them only if they stay in their own lands. You may not like borders, but they reflect unbridgeable differences and make peaceful coexistence possible. The conservative, unlike the liberal, has a reality-based, sober understanding of how different and how limited we human beings are.
Alt-rightists call them 'cuckservatives,' but I am no alt-rightist. (I don't believe the cure for a Commie is a Nazi.) So I use 'sneer' quotes.
Professional 'conservatives' are like a lot of professional 'philosophers': they cherish their cushy yap-and-scribble lifestyle whether or not it brings about any personal or social improvement. Wisdom? What's that? (Memo to self: write an entire entry on this.)
“I’ve heard a lot of conservatives voicing frustration, like, ‘How fucking hard is this, Hillary?’” said Ben Howe, a conservative ad-maker and an outspoken Trump detractor. “That’s the only reason I’m panicked these days … I’m losing faith in Hillary’s ability to win this easy-ass election.”
Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant now working on Evan McMullin’s independent presidential campaign, said few of his #NeverTrump compatriots believe a case of pneumonia will sink Clinton’s candidacy. But her impulse to conceal the illness — and her campaign’s clumsy response once it was revealed — reinforced a core political weakness.
“There are a lot of Republicans on the ‘Never Trump’ side that are starting to feel very nervous,” Wilson said, “because no matter how minor the next thing is there’s a possibility [the Clinton campaign] is gonna screw it up by lying about something. They can’t help themselves. It’s genetic.”
To all the “conservatives” yammering about my supposed opposition to Constitutional principle (more on that below) and who hate Trump, I say: Trump is mounting the first serious national-political defense of the Constitution in a generation. He may not see himself in those terms. I believe he sees himself as a straightforward patriot who just wants to do what is best for his country and its people. Whatever the case, he is asserting the right of the sovereign people to make their government do what they want it to do, and not do things they don’t want it to do, in the teeth of determined opposition from a managerial class and administrative state that want not merely different policies but above all to perpetuate their own rule.
If the Constitution has any force or meaning, then “We the People” get to decide not merely who gets to run the administrative state—which, whatever the outcome, will always continue on the same path—more fundamentally, we get to decide what policies we want and which we don’t. Apparently, to the whole Left and much of the Right, this stance is immoderate and dangerous. The people who make that charge claim to do so in defense of Constitutional principle. I can’t square that circle. Can you?
Good commentary from Roger Kimball on the Flight 93 piece by Publius Decius Mus.
Kimball now has a more positive view of Trump:
As recently as a few weeks back, I was a lesser-of-two-evils, reluctant Trump supporter: classic Russian roulette vs. the loaded semi-automatic that is a Hillary Clinton victory.
But then Trump embarked on a series of high-profile speeches and rallies. I liked what he said about taxes and economic policy. I liked his list of possible SCOTUS nominees. I liked what he said about supporting the police and the plight of blacks in the inner cities. I liked what he said about combatting Islamic terrorism (what Barack Obama calls “workplace violence”). I even liked most of what he said in hisimmigration speech in Arizona. I thought it was courageous and “presidential” for him to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. I thought he did the right thing in going to lend moral, and even a bit of material, support to the victims of the floods in Louisiana. I was grateful when he released a video commemoratingthe canonization of Mother Teresa. I was happy to see him supporting school choice, standing up for religious freedom, and criticizing those who mock Christians and people of faith.
I know there will be some who object, “But how do you know he will do all things things.” The answer is, I don’t.
But I do know what Hillary would do: Obama on steroids. She’s a known-known. She would, as Publius warns, complete the “fundamental transformation” of this country into a third-world, politically correct socialist redoubt.
There is a fair amount of hysteria among NeverTrumpers about “The Flight 93 Election,” which I guess underscores just how potent its argument is. (The fact that Rush Limbaugh read it aloud on his radio show redoubled that potency.) As I say, I’ve come around to thinking that there are plenty of good reasons for someone of conservative principles to support Trump. I know, and have repeatedly rehearsed, the standard litany of criticisms about Trump. But they fade if not into insignificance then at least into near irrelevance in the face of his actual program (see above) and, most of all, in the face of the horror that is his opponent. I’ll give the last word to Publius: “The election of 2016 is a test . . . of whether there is anyvirtù left in what used to be the core of the American nation. If they cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests, and to vote against the one who openly boasts that she will do the opposite (a million more Syrians, anyone?), then they are doomed. They may not deserve the fate that will befall them, but they will suffer it regardless.”
The great James Burnham once remarked that where there is no alternative there is no problem. Fortunately, we do have an alternative, and, my, we do have a problem. I was wrong when I predicted that Donald Trump would not be the candidate. I hope I will be proved wrong about my prediction that, were he the candidate, he would not win. The trends are promising, I think, but it would be foolish to deny that there are madmen in the cockpit or that many of the passengers are scared, apathetic, deluded, or just plain cowardly. We need a real-life Decius Mus who is willing to say “Let’s roll” and make a concerted charge. It may be the last chance we have.
Perhaps you have noticed this too. People will often predict what they want to happen, even when what they want to happen is far from a foregone conclusion. At the moment I am reading an article by David P. Goldman who asserts that Hillary is "road kill":
The presidential election was over the moment the word “deplorable” made its run out of Hillary Clinton’s unguarded mouth. As the whole world now knows, Clinton told a Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender fundraiser Sept. 10, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.”
What is the astute Goldman up to? He must know the election is not in the bag. A glance at the electoral college map should convince anyone of that. At the moment, Clinton has 209 electoral votes, Trump 154, with 175 toss ups.
My theory is that when intelligent people predict what they want to happen, when what they want to happen is far from a foregone conclusion, they are trying to influence the outcome. If more and more people think that Trump will win, then they will be inclined to support him. People like to be on the winning side. "You just want to be one the side that's winning," Dylan whined in Positively Fourth Street.
There are numerous examples of this phenomenon of predicting what one wants to happen.
A related phenomenon is often exhibited by my angelic wife. I'll ask her how likely it is that such-and-such a good thing will happen, and she will reply, "I hope so!" I will then point out that what I requested was her assessment of the probability of a desired future event, not a report on what she hopes.
'Do you think Socrates Jones will get tenure?"
"I hope so!"
Goldman's ending earns the coveted MavPhilnihil obstat:
He [Trump] built a new country club in Palm Beach two decades ago because the old ones excluded blacks and Jews. He’s no racist. He’s an obnoxious, vulgar salesman who plays politics like a reality show. I’ve made clear that I will vote for him, not because he was my choice in the Republican field (that was Sen. Cruz), but because I believe that rule of law is a precondition for a free society. If the Clintons get a free pass for influence-peddling on the multi-hundred-million-dollar scale and for covering up illegal use of private communications for government documents, the rule of law is a joke in the United States. Even if Trump were a worse president than Clinton–which is probably not the case–I would vote for him, on this ground alone.
In an outstanding NRO piece, William Voegeli has collected some choice specimens of Hillarious blather.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, really did say in an economic-policy speech this year, “I believe in an America always moving toward the future.”
This inanity is not a new problem. Consider the two most important speeches the president and the first lady gave in 1993. In his inaugural address, Bill Clinton said, “Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.” Further, “the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy.”
Less than three months later, in a speech ostensibly about health-care policy, Hillary Clinton told a bemused University of Texas audience that “we lack meaning in our individual lives and meaning collectively, we lack a sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another.” Her solution exceeded the responsibilities of a president’s spouse, but then it also exceeded the capacities of any public official, private citizen, or national institution: “Let us be willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millennium.”
The earnest, incoherent moralism that characterized Clintonism at the outset remains its salient feature. In her recent acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton offered “the words of our Methodist faith” that she had learned as a girl: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”
It’s quite impossible to disagree with this credo, which is both its appeal and its fatal flaw. The hard questions, the moral and practical ones that matter, are about how to do good, not whether. The pious tautology that it’s good to do good but bad to do bad tells us nothing about choosing between goods when there are trade-offs or conflicts, weighing costs against benefits, comparing short-term attainments with long-term risks, or reckoning second-order effects. It’s useless, in other words, for grappling with every problem that makes our moral and political lives so hard.
Contrast this empty verbiage with the detailed policy proposals in Trump's Phoenix immigration speech.
The problem with Hillary, as with Obama, is that they are what I call stealth ideologues. They push a hard-Left agenda but they are too dishonest to own up to it. So they spout empty phrases the better to bamboozle the booboisie.
The following argument is sometimes heard. "Because values are relative, it is wrong to impose one's values on others."
But if values are relative, and among my values is the value of instructing others in the right way to live, then surely I am justified in imposing my values on others. What better justification could I have? If values are relative, then there is simply no objective basis for a critique or rejection of the values I happen to hold. For it to be wrong for me to impose my values, value-imposition would have to be a nonrelative disvalue. But this is precisely what is ruled out by the premise 'values are relative.'
Either values are relative or they are not. If they are relative then no one can be faulted for living in accordance with his values even if among his values is the value of imposing one's values on others. If, on the other hand, values are not relative, then one will be in a position to condemn some forms of value-imposition. The second alternative, however, is not available to one who affirms the relativity of all values.
Persons who give the above argument are trying to have it both ways at once, and in so doing fall into self-contradiction. They want the supposed benefits of believing that values are relative -- such supposed benefits as toleration -- while at the same time committing themselves to the contradictory proposition that some values are not relative by their condemnation of value-imposition.
One sees from this how difficult it is for relativists to be consistent. A consistent relativist cannot make any such pronouncement as that it is wrong to impose one's values on others; all he can say is that from within his value scheme it is wrong to impose one's values on others. But then he allows the possibility that there are others for whom value-imposition is the right thing to do.
Relativism, whether alethic or axiological, is curiously self-vitiating. To be consistent, the relativist must acquiesce in the relativization of his own position. For example, the value relativist must admit that is only from within his own value scheme that it is wrong to impose one's value on others. To which my response will be: That's nice; but what does that have to do with me? The relativist can get my attention only if he appeals to nonrelative values, value binding on all of us; but if does so, then he contradicts himself.
In the course of our discursive operations we often encounter circularity. Clarity will be served if we distinguish different types of circularity. I count three types. We could label them definitional, argumentative, and explanatory.
A. The life of the mind often includes the framing of definitions. Now one constraint on a good definition is that it not be circular. A circular definition is one in which the term to be defined (the definiendum) or a cognate thereof occurs in the defining term (the definiens). 'A triangle is a plane figure having a triangular shape,' though plainly true, is circular. 'The extension of a term is the set of items to which the term applies' is an example of a non-circular definition.
B. Sometimes we argue. We attempt to support a proposition p by adducing other propositions as reasons for accepting p. Now one constraint on a good argument is that it not be circular. A circular argument in is one in which the conclusion appears among the premises, sometimes nakedly, other times clothed for decency's sake in different verbal dress. Supply your own examples.
C. Sometimes we explain. What is it for an individual x to exist? Suppose you say that for x to exist is for some property to be instantiated. One variation on this theme is to say that for Socrates to exist is for the haecceity property Socrateity to be instantiated. This counts as a metaphysical explanation, and a circular one to boot. For if Socrateity is instantiated, then it is is instantiated by Socrates who must exist to stand in the instantiation relation. The account moves in a circle, an explanatory circle of embarrassingly short diameter.
Suppose someone says that for x to exist is for x to be identical to something or other. They could mean this merely as an equivalence, in which case I have no objection. But if they are shooting for a explanation of existence in terms of identity-with-something-or-other, then they move in an explanatory circle. For if x exists in virtue of its identity with some y, then y must exist, and you have moved in an explanatory circle.
Some philosophers argue that philosophers ought not be in the business of explanation. I beg to differ. But that is a large metaphilosophical topic unto itself.
The morning of 9/11 was a beautiful, dry Arizona morning. Back from a hard run, I flipped on the TV while doing some cool-down exercises only to see one of the planes crash into one of the towers. I knew right away what was going on.
I said to my wife, "Well, two good things will come of this: Gary Condit will be out of the news forever, and finally something will be done about our porous southern border."
I was right about the first, but not about the second.
Do you remember Gary Condit, the California congressmann? Succumbing as so many do to the fire down below, Condit initiated an extramarital affair with the federal intern, Chandra Levy. When Levy was found murdered, Condit's link to Levy proved his undoing. The cable shows were awash with the Condit-Levy affair that summer of 2001. 9/11 put an end to the soap opera.
But it didn't do much for the security of the southern border.
We have one last chance,and his name is Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton we now know to be a liar beyond any shadow of a reasonable doubt. A liar is one who habitually makes false statements with the intention of deceiving her audience. This definition, however, presupposes the distinction between true and false statements. Aphoristically: no truth, no lies. Hillary cannot be a liar unless there is truth. But maybe there is no truth, only narratives. Here, perhaps, is a way to defend Hillary. Perhaps the outrageous things she says are merely parts of her narrative. So consider:
N. There is no truth; there are only narratives.
It follows that (N) itself is only a narrative, or part of one. For if there is no truth, then (N) cannot be true. Is this a problem? I should think so. Suppose you want to persuade me to accept (N). How will you proceed? You can't say I ought to accept (N) because it is true. Will you say that I ought to accept (N) because it is 'empowering'? But it cannot BE empowering unless it is TRUE that it is empowering. You cannot, however, invoke truth on pain of falling into inconsistency. No matter which predicate you substitute for 'empowering,' you will face the same difficulty. If you recommend (N) on the ground that it is F, then you must say that (N) IS F, which leads right back to truth.
Being and truth are systematically connected. The truth is the truth about what IS, and what IS is at least possibly such as to be the subject matter of truths. (A classical theist can go whole hog here and say: necessarily, whatever IS is the subject matter of truths, and every truth is about something that IS. But I am not assuming classical theism in this entry.)
So you can't say that (N) is empowering or conducive to winning the election or whatever; all you can say is that it is part of your narrative that (N) is empowering, or conducive . . . . In this way you box yourself in: there is nothing you say that can BE the case; everything is a narrative or part of a narrative. But you cannot even say that. You cannot say that everything you say IS a narrative, only that it is part of your narrative that everything you say is a narrative. You are sinking into some seriously deep crapola in your attempt to defend the indefensible, Hillary.
It follows from this that you cannot budge your sane opponent who holds that there is truth and that some narratives are true and others are false. I am one of these sane people. You cannot budge me because, according to MY narrative, there is truth and not all narratives are true. According to my narrative, my narrative is not just a narrative. It answers to a higher power, Truth. The only way you could budge me from my position is by appealing to truth transcendent of narrative. And that you cannot do.
So what is a poor leftist to do? Fall into inconsistency, which is in fact what they do. Everything is a mere narrative except when it suits them to appeal to what is the case.
It is of the essence of the contemporary Left to attempt the replacement of truth by narrative, a replacement they cannot pull off without inconsistency.
What if the lefty embraces inconsistency? Then, while resisting the temptation to release the safety on your 1911, you walk away, as from a block of wood. You can't argue with a block of wood or a shithead. While shit has form, it lacks form supportive of rational discourse.
Leszek Kolakowski has a message for New Atheists, leftists, transhumanists and any other bunch of religion bashers who think religion will wither away, be put out of business by some technological advance, or will eventually be confined to the sphere of the merely private. The following quotations are from an interview with the philosopher conducted by Nathan Gardels entitled Man Does Not Live by Reason Alone. (HT: Karl White) Emphasis added. For more on Kolakowski poke around in the Kolakowski category.
Moreover, the rationalist predictions about religion also turned out to be wrong. I don’t expect the death of religion or the death of God. Secularization hasn’t eradicated religious needs.
[. . .]
So, far from secularization inexorably leading to the death of religion, it has instead given birth to the search for new forms of religious life. The imminent victory of the Kingdom of Reason has never materialized.
As a whole, mankind can never get rid of the need for religious self-identification: who am I, where did I come from, where do I fit in, why am I responsible, what does my life mean, how will I face death? Religion is a paramount aspect of human culture. Religious need cannot be excommunicated from culture by rationalist incantation. Man does not live by reason alone.
Gardels | The cultural catastrophe being that without a set of rules that comes from religious tradition there are no moral brakes on man, particularly on the gluttony of homo consumptus?
Kolakowski | Yes, no moral brakes. When culture loses its sacred sense, it loses all sense. With the disappearance of the sacred, which imposes limits on the perfection that can be attained by secular society, one of the most dangerous illusions of our civilization arises—the illusion that there are no limits to the changes we can undergo, that society is an endlessly flexible thing subject to the arbitrary whims of our creative capacities.
[BV Comment: You can see this today in the nonsensical social constructivism according to which people incoherently speak of race and sex as social constructs.]
In the end, as I have written in the essay “The Revenge of the Sacred in Secular Culture,” this illusion sows disastrous despair. The modern chimera, which would grant man total freedom from tradition or all pre-existing sense, far from opening before him the perspective of divine self-creation, suspends him in a darkness where all things are regarded with equal indifference.
To be totally free from religious heritage or historical tradition is to situate oneself in a void and thus to disintegrate. The utopian faith in man’s self-inventive capabilities, the utopian hope of unlimited perfection, may be the most efficient instrument of suicide human culture has ever invented.
To reject the sacred, which means also to reject sin, imperfection and evil, is to reject our own limits. To say that evil is contingent, as Sartre did, is to say that there is no evil, and therefore that we have no need of a sense given to us by tradition, fixed and imposed on us whether we will it or not.
As you put it, there are thus no moral brakes on the will to power. In the end, the ideal of total liberation is the sanctioning of greed, force and violence, and thus of despotism, the destruction of culture and the degradation of the earth.
The only way to ensure the endurance of civilization is to ensure that there are always people who think of the price paid for every step of what we call “progress.” The order of the sacred is also a sensitivity to evil—the only system of reference that allows us to contemplate that price and forces us to ask whether it is exorbitant.
The values whose vigor is so vital to culture cannot survive without being rooted in the realm of the sacred. This is true not only of the values of which Milosz spoke —honesty and personal dignity—but others as well.
[. . .]
Gardels | At the end of the last modern century, can secular man reintroduce the sacred? Can we base ethical values on reason instead of revolution? Must personal responsibility be rooted in transcendent beliefs?
Kolakowski |It is obviously possible for individuals to keep high moral standards and be irreligious. I strongly doubt whether it is possible for civilizations. Absent religious tradition, what reason is there for a society to respect human rights and the dignity of man? What is human dignity, scientifically speaking? A superstition?
Empirically, men are demonstrably unequal. How can we justify equality? Human rights is an unscientific idea. As Milosz says, these values are rooted in a transcendent dimension.
Gardels | It strikes me that totalitarianism of a different kind could emerge from the new global capitalist order—a totalitarianism of immediate gratification in which reason is conditional to self-interest.
What is to defend dignity and human rights from total commercialization?
Kolakowski |The absence of a transcendent dimension in secular society weakens this social contract in which each supposedly limits his or her freedom in order to live in peace with others.
Such universalism of interest is another aspect of the modern illusion. There is no such thing as scientifically based human solidarity.
To be sure, I can convince myself that it is in my interest not to rob other people, not to rape and murder, because I can convince myself that the risk is too great. This is the Hobbesian model of solidarity: greed moderated by fear.
But social chaos stands in the shadows of such moral anarchy. When a society adheres to moral norms for no other reason than prudence, it is extremely weak and its fabric tears at the slightest crisis. In such a society, there is no basis for personal responsibility, charity or compassion.
Now, with the ecological imperative, a new ethos of species self-preservation is being discussed. To some extent, it may be true that we are instinctively programmed for self-preservation of the species. But the history of this last modern century has certainly demonstrated that we can destroy members of our own species without great inhibitions. If there is species solidarity at some deep biological level, it hasn’t saved us from civil destruction.
Thus, we need instruments of human solidarity that are not based on our own instincts, self-interest or on force. The communist attempt to institutionalize solidarity ended in disaster.
Here's how I think science will eventually put religion out of business. Soon medical science is going to be able to offer serious life extension, not pie-in-the-sky soul survival or re-incarnation, but real life extension with possible rejuvenation. When science can offer and DELIVER what religion can only promise, religion is done.
1. Religion is in the transcendence business. The type of transcendence offered depends on the particular religion. The highly sophisticated form of Christianity expounded by Thomas Aquinas offers the visio beata, the Beatific Vision. In the BV -- you will forgive the abbreviation -- the soul does not lose its identity. It maintains its identity, though in a transformed mode, while participating in the divine life. Hinduism and Buddhism offer even more rarefied forms of transcendence in which the individual self is either absorbed into the eternal Atman/Brahman, thereby losing its individual identity, or extinguished altogether by entry into Nirvana. And there are cruder forms of transcendence, in popular forms of Christianity, in Islam, and in other faiths, in which the individual continues to exist after death but with little or no transformation to enjoy delights that are commensurable with the ones enjoyed here below. The crudest form, no doubt, is the popular Islamic notion of paradise as an endless sporting with 72 black-eyed virgins. So on the one end of the spectrum: transcendence as something difficult to distinguish from utter extinction; on the other end, immortality mit Haut und Haar (to borrow a delightful phrase from Schopenhauer), "with skin and hair" in a realm of sensuous delights but without the usual negatives such as heartburn and erectile dysfunction.
I think we can safely say that a religion that offers no form of transcendence, whether Here or Hereafter, is no religion at all. Religion, then, is in the business of offering transcendence.
2. I agree with my correspondent that if science can provide what religion promises, then science will put religion out of business. But as my crude little sketch above shows, different religions promise different things. Now the crudest form of transcendence is physical immortality, immortality "with skin and hair." Is it reasonable to hope that future science will give rise to a technology that will make us, or some of us, physically immortal, where 'physical' is understood as we understand it in the here and now? I don't think so. That would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics according to which the entropy of an irreversible process in an isolated system increases leading in the case of the universe (which is both isolated and irreversible) to the heat death of the universe and the end of all life. Granted, that is way off in the future. But that is irrelevant if the claim is that physical immortality is possible by purely physical means. And if that is not the claim, then the use of the phrase 'physical immortality' is out of place. In a serious discussion like this word games are strictly verboten.
3. Physical immortality is nomologically impossible, impossible given the laws of nature. Of course, a certain amount of life extension has been achieved and it is reasonable to expect that more will be achieved. So suppose the average life expectancy of people like us gets cranked up to 130 years. To underscore the obvious, to live to 130 is not to live forever. Suppose you have made it to 130 and are now on your death bed. If you have any spiritual depth at all, your lament is likely to be similar to that of Jacob's: "The length of my pilgrimage has been one hundred and thirty years; short and wretched has been my life, nor does it compare with the years my fathers lived during their pilgrimage." (Genesis 47:9)
The important point here is that once a period of time is over, it makes no difference how long it has lasted. It is over and done with and accessible only in the flickering and dim light of intermittent and fallible memory. The past 'telescopes' and 'scrunches up,' the years melt into one another; the past cannot be relived. What was distinctly lived is now all a blur. And now death looms before you. What does it matter that you lived 130 or 260 years? You are going to die all the same, and be forgotten, and all your works with you. After a while it will be as if you never existed.
The problem is not that our lives are short; the problem is that we are in time at all. No matter how long a life extends it is still a life in time, a life in which the past is no longer, the future not yet, and the present a passing away. This problem, the problem of the transitoriness of life, cannot be solved by life extension even if, per impossibile, physical immortality were possible. This problem of the transitoriness and vanity of life is one that religion addresses.
So my first conclusion is this. Even if we take religion in its crudest form, as promising physical immortality, "with skin and hair," science cannot put such a crude religion out of business. For, first of all, physical immortality is physically impossible, and second, mere life extension, even unto the age of a Methuselah, does not solve the problem of the transitoriness of life.
4. But I have just begun to scratch the surface of the absurdities of transhumanism. No higher religion is about providing natural goodies by supernatural means, goodies that cannot be had by natural means. Talk of pie-in-the-sky is but a cartoonish misrepresentation by those materialists who can only think in material terms and only believe in what they can hold in their hands. A religion such as Christianity promises a way out of the unsatisfactory predicament we find ourselves in in this life. What makes our situation unsatisfactory is not merely our physical and mental weakness and the shortness of our lives. It is primarily our moral defects that make our lives in this world miserable. We lie and slander, steal and cheat, rape and murder. We are ungrateful for what we have and filled with inordinate desire for what we don't have and wouldn't satisfy us even if we had it. We are avaricious, gluttonous, proud, boastful and self-deceived. It is not just that our wills are weak; our wills are perverse. It is not just that are hearts are cold; our hearts are foul. You say none of this applies to you? Very well, you will end up the victim of those to whom these predicates do apply. And then your misery will be, not the misery of the evil-doer, but the misery of the victim and the slave. You may find yourself forlorn and forsaken in a concentration camp. Suffering you can bear, but not meaningless suffering, not injustice and absurdity.
Whether or not the higher religions can deliver what they promise, what they promise first and foremost is deliverance from ignorance and delusion, salvation from meaninglessness and moral evil. So my correspondent couldn't be more wrong. No physical technology can do what religion tries to do. Suppose a technology is developed that actually reverses the processes of aging and keeps us all alive indefinitely. This is pure fantasy, of course, given the manifold contingencies of the world (nuclear and biological warfare, terrorism, natural disasters, etc.); but just suppose. Our spiritual and moral predicament would remain as deeply fouled-up as it has always been and religion would remain in business.
5. If, like my correspondent, you accept naturalism and scientism, then you ought to face what you take to be reality, namely, that we are all just clever animals slated to perish utterly in a few years, and not seek transcendence where it cannot be found. Accept no substitutes! Transhumanism is an ersatz religion.
It could be like this. All religions are false; none can deliver what they promise. Naturalism is true: reality is exhausted by the space-time system. You are not unreasonable if you believe this. But I say you are unreasonable if you think that technologies derived from the sciences of nature can deliver what religions have promised.
As long as there are human beings there will be religion. The only way I can imagine religion withering away is if humanity allows itself to be gradually replaced by soulless robots. But in that case it will not be that the promises of religion are fulfilled by science; it would be that no one would be around having religious needs.
Philosophy is magnificent in aspiration but miserable in execution.
Part of what makes philosophy a miserable subject is that none of its conclusions is conclusive. Herewith, a little example. But first some background.
A truthmaker maximalist is one who maintains that every truth has a truthmaker. So it doesn't matter whether a truth is necessary or contingent, universal or particular or singular, affirmative or negative, analytic or synthetic, etc.: it has a truth maker. There are no exceptions. The contrary of a truthmaker maximalist is a truthmaker nihilist: one who maintains that no truth has a truthmaker -- not because no truth is true, but because no truth needs something in the world to 'make' it true. I incline toward truthmaker optimalism: some but not all truths need truthmakers. But our topic is truthmaker maximalism.
Don't confuse maximalism with the thesis that every truth has its own unique, bespoke, truthmaker. The maximalist is not committed to a 1-1 correspondence between truths and truthmakers. Example. On a factualist approach to truthmakers, they are facts. So on factualism, the truthmaker of 'Al is fat' is the fact of Al's being fat. But this fact also makes true other truths such as 'Someone is fat' and its logical entailments such as 'Someone is fat or Fred is dead.'
Now let's consider a counterexample to truthmaker maximalism. This is from the excellent SEP entry Truthmakers by Fraser MacBride.
2.1.2 Could there be nothing rather than something?
Here's another shot across the bows, this time from [David] Lewis. Take the most encompassing negative existential of all: absolutely nothing exists. Surely this statement is possibly true. But if it were true then something would have to exist to make it true if the principle that every truth has a truth-maker is to be upheld. But then there would have to be something rather than nothing. So combining maximalism with the conviction that there could have been nothing rather than something leads to contradiction (Lewis 1998: 220, 2001: 611). So unless we already have reason to think there must be something rather than nothing—as both Armstrong (1989b: 24–5) and Lewis (1986: 73–4) think they do—maximalism is already in trouble.
Setting up the problem as an inconsistent triad:
A.It is necessarily true that: Every truth has a truthmaker.
B. It is possibly true that: Nothing exists
C. It is not possibly true that: Nothing exists and something exists.
Since (C) is non-negotiable, either (A) or (B) must be rejected. MacBride thinks that (B) is "surely" true, and that therefore (A) is "in trouble." But MacBride's "surely" is surely bluster.
It is impossible that nothing exist. For if that had been the case, then it would have been the case, which is to say that it would have been true that nothing exists, whence it follows that there would have been something after all, namely, the truth that nothing exists.
Or think of it this way. Had nothing at all existed, that would have been the way things are, a most definite way things are that excludes infinitely many other ways things might have been. This way things are, had nothing existed, is something, not nothing. So it is impossible that there might have been nothing at all.
Parmenides vindicatus est.
Is the argument I just gave compelling? No. Philosophy is a miserable subject.
The misery of philosophy is rooted in the misery of man and the infirmity of his reason. But we know our misery. Therein lies an indication of our greatness. The knowledge of our ignorance and of our misery elevates us above every other sentient being.
When Richard Nixon tried to weaponize the IRS, top officials at the Service made a stink. Under Obama, the IRS weaponized itself.
And, of course, the press is in the tank for the Democrats as usual. Bad news about Obama and Clinton has been soft-pedaled, with reporters sometimes admitting that they don’t want to help Trump.
So if the choice in 2016 is between one bad candidate and another (and it is) the question is, which one will do the least harm. And, judging by the civil service’s behavior, that’s got to be Trump. If Trump tries to target his enemies with the IRS, you can bet that he’ll get a lot of pushback — and the press, instead of explaining it away, will make a huge stink. If Trump engages in influence-peddling, or abuses secrecy laws, you can bet that, even if Trump’s appointees sit atop the DOJ or FBI, the civil service will ensure that things don’t get swept under the rug. And if Trump wants to go to war, he’ll get far more scrutiny than Hillary will get — or, in cases like her disastrous Libya invasion, has gotten.
So the message is clear. If you want good government, vote for Trump — he’s the only one who will make this whole checks-and-balances thing work.
Right you are, my man.
But more than good government is at stake. Government itself in the American style is at stake. We are at a tipping point. If the destructive, corrupt, lying leftist is elected, it is all over for the USA as she was founded to be. Despite what the bow-tied pussy-wussies say, there will be no recovery after four-to-eight more years of leftist infiltration of all our institutions and capitulation before our enemies.
James Cambell, a professor of political science, writes,
Thinking Republicans should NOT SUPPORT Donald Trump, but they should reluctantly VOTE for him. On what matters most, and that is public policy, Trump is not nearly as bad as Clinton. Shout that Donald Trump is an idiot from the roof tops and into any microphone thrown in front of you–but then declare a vote for him.
The distinction between supporting and voting for a candidate is not a gimmick. There is a real difference. Support implies a positive assessment. A vote is a choice.
This is close to the view I have been maintaining over a series of posts. But I don't think Campbell gets it exactly right. Here is the way I see it.
Hillary must be stopped. She is utterly corrupt as a person, as is becoming increasingly evident with every passing day, and she is in bad health to boot. And her foreign and domestic policies are disastrous. I cannot in good conscience abstain thereby aiding her. So I must vote for Trump. In doing so, I don't merely mark a ballot; I 'make a statement' and 'issue a recommendation.' The 'statement' is not that Trump is a good candidate, but that he is better than Hillary, all things considered. The 'recommendation' is that you ought to do as I do if you are a conservative.
So in one sense of 'support,' I do not support Trump by voting for him: I do not unreservedly endorse him. I agree with Campbell that there is a real distinction we need to make. The words in which we couch the distinction don't matter. You don't like 'support'? Fine. Wise men do not quibble over words. The distinction can be put like this: to vote for a candidate is not unreservedly to endorse said candidate.
A vote is of course a choice, asCampbell says, but it is not merely a choice inasmuch as it has a certain 'content' as I have already indicated. Marking my ballot for Trump, I express my belief that he is better than his opponent, and not merely better for me, but for the country. I am also tacitly recommending that others do the same.
Trump's recent speeches have been outstanding. The Phoenix immigration speech was just perfect, exactly what a conservative ought to maintain (and not all that different from what Bill Clinton maintained in '95!). So it not as if "Trump is not nearly as bad as Clinton" on policy. He is vastly superior. The trouble with Trump is his self-absorbed and mercurial character. But as events are showing, it is becoming less and less clear that Trump is as bad as Hillary character-wise. He is shaping up, and she is being exposed for what she is.
Not again! Yes, again. On 5 September 2016 anno domini, in the pages of Crisis Magazine, Fr. Brandon O'Brien opined (emphasis added):
While some similarities may exist between the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God, it is certain that the Christian who prays “Our Father, Who art in Heaven” each day is not praying to the same God as the Muslim who prays “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” This is because they are not worshipping the same God.
Certain! How's that for theological chutzpah?
The title of the piece is "Why Christians and Muslims Worship Different Gods." The reason is that the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God are drastically different. The doctrine of the Trinity is perhaps the key difference. For normative Christians God is tri-une: one God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is well-known that normative Muslims reject this trinitarian conception and hold to the radical unity of Allah. God cannot have a son, either in heaven or on earth. This key difference leads to the crucial difference. For Christians, God, or rather God's Son, died on the cross (crux, crucis) for man's salvation, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven body and soul.
So the conceptions of God in the two religions are radically different. But how is it supposed to follow that Christians and Muslims worship numerically different Gods? It doesn't follow! Let me explain.
Suppose Sam's conception of the author of Das Kapital includes the false belief that the author is a Russian while Dave's conception includes the true belief that he is a German. This is consistent with there being one and same philosopher whom they have beliefs about and are referring to. One and the same man, Karl Marx, is such that Sam has a false belief about him while Dave has a true belief about him.
Now suppose Ali's conception of the divine being includes the false belief that said being is non-triune while Peter's conception includes the true belief that God is triune. This is consistent with there being one and same being whom they have beliefs about and are referring to. One and the same god, God, is such that Ali has a false belief about him while Peter has a true belief about him.
What I have just shown is that from the radically different, and indeed inconsistent, God-conceptions one cannot validly infer that (normative) Christians and (normative) Muslims refer to and worship numerically different Gods. For the difference in conceptions is consistent with sameness of referent. So you can see that Fr. O'Brien has made a mistake.
But nota bene: Difference in conceptions is also consistent with a difference in referent. It could be that when a Christian uses 'God' he refers to something while a Muslim refers to nothing when he uses 'Allah.' Consider God and Zeus. Will you say that the Christian and the ancient Greek polytheist worship the same God except that the Greek has false beliefs about their common object of worship, believing as he does that Zeus is a superman who lives on a mountain top, literally hurls thunderbolts, etc.? Or will you say that there is no one God that they worship, that the Christian worships a being that exists while the Greek worships a nonexistent object? And if you say the latter, why not also say the same about God and Allah, namely, that there is no one being that they both worship, that the Christian worships the true God, the God that really exists, whereas Muslims worship a God that does not exist?
In sum, difference in conceptions is logically consistent both with sameness of referent and difference of referent.
Apparently, this is difficult for some to see. My good friend Dale Tuggy writes,
Christians and Muslims disagree about whether God has a Son, right? Then, they’re talking about the same (alleged) being. They may disagree about “who God is” in the sense of what he’s done, what attributes he has, how many “Persons” are in him, and whether Muhammad was really his Messenger, etc. But disagreement assumes one subject-matter – here, one god.
Tuggy is saying in effect that disagreement presupposes, and thus entails, sameness of referent.
I think Tuggy is making a mistake here. Surely disagreement about the properties of a putatively self-same x does not entail that there is in reality one and the same x under discussion, although it is logically consistent with it.
A dispute between me and Ed Feser, say, about whether our mutual acquaintance Tuggy has a son no doubt presupposes, and thus entails, that there is one and the same man whom we are talking about. It would be absurd to maintain that there are two Tuggys, my Tuggy and Ed's, where mine has a son and Ed's does not. It would be absurd for me to say, "I'm talking about the true Tuggy while you, Ed, are talking about a different Tuggy, one that doesn't exist. You are referencing, if not worshipping, a false Tuggy." Why is this absurd? Because we are both acquainted with the man ('in the flesh,' by sense-perception and countless memories) and we are arguing merely over the properties of the one and the same man with whom we are both acquainted. There is simply no question but that he exists and that we are both referring to him. The dispute concerns his attributes.
But of course the situation is different with God. We are not acquainted with God: God, unlike Tuggy, is not given to the senses. Mystical intuition and revelation aside, we are thrown back upon our concepts of God. And so it may be that the dispute over whether God is triune or not is not a dispute that presupposes that there is one subject-matter, but rather a dispute over whether the Christian concept of God (which includes the sub-concept triune) is instantiated or whether the Muslim concept (which does not include the subconcept triune) is instantiated. Note that they cannot both be instantiated by the same item.
The point I am making is a subtle one, and you have to think hard to grasp it. The point is that it is not at all obvious which of the following views is correct:
V1: Christian and Muslim worship the same God, even though one of them must have a false belief about God, whether it be the belief that God is unitarian or the belief that God is trinitarian.
V2: Christian and Muslim worship different Gods precisely because they have mutually exclusive conceptions of God. So it is not that one of them has a false belief about the one God they both worship; it is rather that one of them does not worship the true God at all.
The difference can be put in terms of the difference between heresy and idolatry. If Islam is a Christian heresy, as has been maintained by G. K. Chesterton et al., then the Muslim has false beliefs about the same being about which the Christian has true beliefs. If, on the other hand, the Muslim is an idolator, then he worships a god that does not exist, which obviously cannot be identical to the true God who does exist.
There is no easy way to decide rationally between these two views. We have to delve into the philosophy of language and ask how reference is achieved. How do linguistic expressions attach or apply to extralinguistic entities? How do words grab onto the (extralinguistic) world? In particular, how do nominal expressions work? What makes my utterance of 'Socrates' denote Socrates rather than someone or something else? What makes my use of 'God' (i) have a referent at all and (ii) have the precise referent it has?
For the technical details see the entries collected here.
Most of the writing on this topic is exasperatingly superficial and uninformed, even that by theologians. Fr. O'Brien is a case in point. He thinks the question easily resolved: you simply note the radical difference in the Christian and Muslim God-conceptions and your work is done. Others make the opposite mistake. They think that, of course, Christians and Muslims worship the same God either by making Tuggy's mistake above or by thinking that the considerable overlap in the two conceptions settles the issue.
My thesis is not that the one side is right or that the other side is right. My thesis is that the question is a very difficult one that entangles us in controversial inquiries in the philosophies or mind and language.
You might say it doesn't matter. If Christians and Muslims worship the same God, then Muslims are heretics: they have false beliefs about the true God. If Christians and Muslims worship different Gods, then the Muslims are idolaters: they worship a nonexistent god. Not good either way. This won't be acceptable to Muslims, of course, but why shouldn't a Christian say this and leave it at that?
Therefore, with another four years of Democrat-left rule -- meaning a nearly permanent left-wing Supreme Court and left-wing-controlled lower courts; the further erosion of federalism; an exponential growth in the power of the federal government; further leftist control of education; and the de-Americanization of America in part by effectively eliminating its borders, in part by substituting multiculturalism for American identity and in part by giving millions of illegal immigrants citizenship -- America will not be America.
We conservatives who will vote for Trump understand that he is the only vehicle we have to prevent this. We recognize that though there are some fine individuals who hold left-wing views, leftism is a terminal cancer in the American bloodstream and soul. So our first and greatest principle is to destroy this cancer before it destroys us. We therefore see voting for Donald Trump as political chemotherapy needed to prevent our demise.
How might a NeverTrump conservative counter this line of argument?
A. One might argue that 4-8 years of Hillary & Co. won't make the country much worse than it is now and won't appreciably strengthen the leftist grip on our institutions.
B. One might argue that 4-8 years of Hillary & Co. will make the country worse, but that all the damage can be undone by a succeeding Republican administration.
C. One might argue that Trump is just too dangerous and mercurial to be trusted with the presidency. He might, for example, start a nuclear war. Better red than dead!
D. One might argue that Trump and Hillary are both evil and that one must never vote for an evil candidate. To vote for either would be like voting for Caligula or Nero, or for Stalin or Hitler.
E. One might argue that (i) Trump cannot be trusted to do anything he promises to do, so that policy-wise there will be no real difference between a Trump and a Hillary administration, and that (ii) Trump is character-wise worse than Clinton. Therefore one ought to either vote for Hillary or abstain. Someone who takes this line might urge that the much-touted Great Wall of Trump is just so much hot air: there never will be any such wall. Trump will back off from that in the way he has backed off (quite reasonably!) from talk of the deportation of the supposed 11 million illegal aliens in our midst. NeverTrumper David French a while back referred to Trump's wall as a "pipe dream."
At the moment I can't think of any other counterarguments. The only one that has any merit is (E). But it too is pretty lame. My response is that while we KNOW what Hillary will do, and that what she will do will be disastrous, there is some chance that Trump will accomplish some of what he proposes. There is zero chance that Hillary will do anything good for the country by conservative lights, while there is, say, a 30% chance that Trump will do 30% of what he proposes. So I reject (i). I also reject (ii). Both candidates are awful, but I don't see how you could say that Trump is morally worse than Hillary.
Trump is all we've got. Conservatives must vote for him. (I warmly recommend that liberals vote for Jill Stein.)
Subtitle: Disarming the Jews and the "Enemies of the State"
Essential reading on the eve of the disaster that is a Hillary presidency.
"Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrook's excellent history of gun control in Germany, shows that, motives notwithstanding, removing weapons from the general population always disarms society vis a vis its worst elements. In Germany the authorities tried to deal with the Nazi and Communist mobs that were shaking society's foundations indirectly, by disarming ordinary people. But their cowardice ended up delivering a helpless population to the Nazis' tender mercies. Halbrook's richly documented history leads Americans to ask why those among us who decry violence in our society choose to try tightening the vise on ordinary citizens' capacity to defend themselves rather than to constrain the sectors of society most responsible for the violence." —Angelo M. Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Boston University; author, Informing Statecraft, War: Ends and Means (with Paul Seabury), The Character of Nations, and Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and the Rewriting of History.
"What good would private arms do against a totalitarian state? That won't remain an unanswerable rhetorical challenge for readers of Stephen Halbrook's calm, detailed scholarly book, Gun Control in the Third Reich. As Halbrook shows, Nazi leaders went to great lengths to extend the gun control laws they inherited from the Weimar Republic. They were obsessed with disarming Jews and other designated public enemies. Potential resistance was not only physically disabled. It was morally and psychologically disarmed. Evil then became irresistible in Germany, not because it was fueled by fanaticism but because shielded by fatalism." —Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
"Even a defense with small arms against a tyrannical regime, if known, can galvanize public opinion which is the ultimate source of all political authority. That is why, as Halbrook authoritatively shows in Gun Control in the Third Reich, the Nazis-despite their massive military force-went out of their way to confiscate even small caliber weapons in Germany." —Donald W. Livingston, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Emory University
A. Some sentences are true in virtue of their correspondence with extralinguistic reality.
B. If so, then reality must have a sentence-like structure.
C. Reality does not have a sentence-like structure.
London Ed solves it by rejecting (A). But let me first say why I accept (A).
Consider a true contingent sentence such as 'Tom is sad,' or the proposition expressed by an assertive utterance in appropriate circumstances of such a sentence. I maintain that the sentence or proposition cannot just be true: if true it is true in virtue of something external to the sentence. The external something cannot be another sentence, or, more generally, another truthbearer. Nor can it be someone's say-so. So the external something has to be something 'in the world,' i.e., in the realm of primary reference, as opposed to the realm of sense. The basic idea here is that some truths need ontological grounds: there is a deep connection between truth and being. There is more to a true sentence than the sentence that is true. There is that in the world which makes it true. Call it the truthmaker of the truth. Some truthbearers need truthmakers. As far as I am concerned, this is about as clear as it gets in philosophy. Which type of entity is best suited to play the truthmaker role, however, is a further question.
Please note three things. First, the direction of the truthmaking relation is from the world to language. More broadly: from external concrete reality to the realm of representations, where Fregean propositions count as representations, despite their not being tied to specific languages, and despite their independence of minds. Second, correspondence is an umbrella notion that covers two quite different relations, naming, and making-true. Naming is a word --> world relation, whereas truthmaking goes in the opposite direction. I am tempted to say that truthmaking is the converse of naming. Third, I unpack 'correspondence' as it occurs in (A) in terms of truthmaking, not naming.
Here is what Ed says in rejection of (A):
The exam question is my argument against (A), namely that some sentences are true in virtue of their correspondence with extralinguistic reality. I shall also be taking on why my reasons are properly nominalistic, given that your version of nominalism is not mine.
1. Starting with nominalism. Classic nominalism is formulated by Ockham in Summa Part I, 51. “the root [of the error of the Realists] is to multiply entities according to the multiplicity of terms, and [to suppose] that to every term [or expression] whatsoever there corresponds a thing [quid rei].”
2. My target is a formulation of the correspondence theory that violates classic nominalism, as I have defined it. There may be other formulations of the theory that are OK.
3. My formulation of the correspondence theory is that an assertoric sentence is true in virtue of naming or referring to or signifying a fact. Let that naming relation be R. Then the correspondence theory says that a sentence S (e.g. ‘Socrates is sitting’) is true iff S stands in the relation R to some fact F (e.g. ‘that Socrates is sitting’).
4. Suppose ‘Socrates is sitting’ names the fact that Socrates is sitting, and assume that it always so names. Then that fact must always exist, assuming the name is always names the fact. So ‘Socrates is sitting’ must always be true, i.e. ‘Socrates is sitting’ always stands in the relation R to the fact that Socrates is sitting. But it is not always true, clearly.
5. We might get out of this in two ways. First, by supposing that ‘Socrates is sitting’ fails to be meaningful, namely when the fact it purports to names ceases to exist, such as when Socrates stands up, or runs. This is absurd, however. The purpose of a sentence is always to mean something.
6. The other way is to suppose that the sentence sometimes names a fact, and sometimes does not. I.e. it actually names something else – a proposition – and the proposition is a fact when the sentence is true, otherwise not a fact. However we have now failed to explain the ‘correspondence’. The sentence ‘Socrates is sitting’ always bears the naming relation R to the proposition that Socrates is sitting, even when Socrates is not sitting.
7. What we really need to name is not the proposition (which may be true or false), but the reality that corresponds when the proposition is a fact. Perhaps ‘the proposition that Socrates is sitting being a fact’ or ‘the actuality of Socrates’s sitting’ or something like that. But there we have the same problem. Either the name ceases to be meaningful when Socrates is not sitting, or it continues to name something. But the former we agreed was absurd, and the latter means that we have not fully captured the relation we want.
8. The problem in general is that if the object of the relation R is something we can talk about i.e. name at all, then we have to deal with the problem of the fixity of reference. The purpose of a name is always to name what it names. But reality is not thus fixed. Whatever supposedly corresponds to the truth of ‘Socrates is sitting’ comes into existence when Socrates sits and goes out of existence when he stands up. But if ‘Socrates is sitting’ is true in virtue of naming this thing, either the sentence becomes meaningless when Socrates stands up, which is absurd, or it names something that does not go out of existence, and so does not name what the correspondence theory purports to name.
9. Bringing this back to nominalism. The problem above arises from the supposition that ‘Socrates is sitting’ is the name of some fact, and thus from supposing that every expression (‘Socrates is sitting’) has a name or referent or whatever.
Ed does two things above. He confronts the truthmaker theorist with a certain (supposedly insoluble) problem, and then he explains how this problem arises by way of a false assumption. First, the problem. I will summarize it as I understand it.
Since Socrates is a past individual, but nothing in this discussion has to do with time, I will change the example to 'Tom is red.' Tom is a tomato of my present acquaintance. We assume that the sentence is true. And of course, if true, then contingently true. My type of TM-theorist holds that contingent true predications such as 'Tom is red' have worldly correspondents called facts. These concrete facts are the truthmakers of contingent predications. Note that the fact corresponds to the sentence as a whole. So not only does 'Tom' have a worldly correspondent, and presumably also the predicate 'red'; the sentence has a worldly correspondent as well.
Note also that the sentence is not about the fact; it is about Tom, or, if you insist, it is about Tom and the property of being red. Still, there is some relation R that connects the sentence and/or the proposition it expresses and the fact. Notice, I wrote 'and the fact,' not 'to the fact.' 'To the fact' suggests a direction from language to world, and not vice versa, whereas 'and the fact' leaves the directionality open. Is the truthmaking relation R naming? Ed thinks it is, but this is not clear. Indeed, I will argue in a moment that the truthmaking relation is not the naming relation. It is clear that 'Tom' names Tom. It is not clear that 'Tom is red' names anything. Suppose it doesn't. This doesn't exclude the possibility that the sentence has a truthmaker. Maybe it has a truthmaker, but that truthmakers cannot be named. Note also that what Ed says above is nothing like what any TM-theorist has ever said. Truthmaking is a relation that runs from the world to representations, whereas naming and referring and 'signifying' run from representations to the world. Truthmaking is more like the converse of the naming relation. We shall see.
But let us suppose arguendo that the truthmaking relation R is naming. On this supposition, Ed sets up a clever little dilemma. It is based on three plausible theses.
T1. If N is a name, then N cannot be vacuous: it must have a nominatum or referent.
T2. If N is a name, then it has an existing referent. That is, there is no naming of nonexistent objects, pace Meinong.
T3. If a name N names an object O, then at every time at which N names something, it names O. So the following is impossible: at some times at which 'Kripke' is in use as a name, it names Kripke, at other times Shkripke. I think this is what Ed means by "the fixity of reference."
The Dilemma. Either sentence S names fact F or it doesn't. On either alternative, trouble. Remember, Ed is assuming that the truthmaking relation is a naming relation and that declarative sentences name facts.
Horn One. If S names F, then, by the conjunction of the three plausible theses, F exists at every time at which S exists, which is plainly false. Clearly, 'Tom is red' both as type and as token can exist at times at which the fact of Tom's being red does not exist. (I might assertively utter 'Tom is red' while Tom is green, or after Tom has been dunked into molten chocolate.) If you say instead that S is meaningless when the fact does not exist, then truthmaking is not naming (by T1), which is all it can be on Ed's (mis)understanding of truthmaking.
Horn Two. If S does not name F, then there is no truthmaking. For truthmaking is a naming relation.
It is clear that Ed does not understand truthmaker theory. The key idea is not that sentences name facts, but that facts make sentences true. That truthmaking is different from naming is clear from the different directions of the relations, but also because truthmaking is a many-many relation whereas naming is a many-one relation. That truthmaking is many-many can be seen as follows. One and the same truth can have many different truthmakers. For example, 'Something is red' is made true by a's being red, b's being red, c's being red, etc. And one and the same truthmaker can make true many truths. For example, Tom's being red makes true 'Tom is red,' 'Tom is red or Shlomo is sad,' etc. (Cf. Armstrong 1997, pp. 129-130.)
Ed has an understanding of nominalism which contemporary analytic philosophers will find idiosyncratic and vacuous to boot. No philosopher today thinks that for every bit of language there is a corresponding bit of reality. So we are all nominalists in this vacuous sense. And no one is a realist if “the root [of the error of the Realists] is to multiply entities according to the multiplicity of terms, and [to suppose] that to every term [or expression] whatsoever there corresponds a thing [quid rei].” And surely it is a bad joke to claim or suggest that TM-theorists straightaway infer the existence of facts from the existence of declarative sentences.
Liberals, whose love of political correctness gets the better of their intellects, typically object to the phrase 'illegal alien.' But why? Are these 'migrants' not in our country illegally, as the result of breaking laws? And are they not aliens, people from another country?
"But you are labelling them!" Yes, of course. Label we must if we are not to lose our minds entirely. 'Feral cat' is a label. Do you propose that we not distinguish between feral and non-feral cats? Do you distinguish between the positive and the negative terminals on your car battery? You'd better! But 'positive terminal' and 'negative terminal' are labels.
Label we must. There is no getting around it if we are to think at all. There used to be a political outfit that called itself 'No Labels.' But that too is a label. Those who eschew all labels label themselves 'idiots.'
Related to this is the injunction, 'Never generalize!' which is itself a generalization. Label we must and generalize we must. Making distinctions and labelling them, and constructing sound generalizations on their basis, are activities essential to, thought not exhaustive of, the life of the intellect.
Liberals also object to 'illegal immigrant.' In fact, the AP has banned the phrase. But given that there are both legal and illegal immigrants, 'illegal immigrant' is a useful label. There is nothing derogatory about it. It is a descriptive term like 'hypertensive' or 'diabetic.' It is just a fact that the 'migrants' are in violation of U. S. law, whatever you think of the law.
One consideration adduced at the AP site is that actions are illegal, not persons. But suppose your doctor tells you that you are diabetic, and you protest, "Doc, not only are you labelling me, you are forgetting that diabetes is a medical condition and that no person is a medical condition." The good doctor would then have to explain that a diabetic is a person who has diabetes. Similarly, an illegal immigrant is one who is in the country illegally. There is the act of illegally crossing the border, but there is also the state of being here illegally.
Plain talk is an excellent antidote to liberal nonsense. When a liberal or a leftist or a libertarian misuses a word in an intellectually dishonest attempt at forwarding his agenda, a right-thinking person ought to protest. Whether you protest or not, you must not acquiesce in their pernicious misuse of language. Or, as I have said more than once in these pages,
If you are a conservative, don't talk like a liberal!
Bear in mind that many of the battles of the culture war are fought, won, and lost on linguistic ground. If we let our opponents destroy the common language in which alone reasonable debate can be conducted, then much more is lost than these particular debates. The liberal-left misuse of language is fueled by their determination to win politically at all costs and by any means, including linguistic hijacking.
In the twilight glow I see her Blue eyes crying in the rain When we kissed goodbye and parted I knew we'd never meet again.
Love is like a dying ember Only memories remain Through the ages I'll remember Blue eyes crying in the rain.
Now my hair has turned to silver All my life I've loved in vain But I can see her star in heaven Blue eyes crying in the rain.
Someday when we meet up yonder We'll stroll hand in hand again In a land that knows no parting Blue eyes crying in the rain.
Jackson Browne, Doctor My Eyes. Dedicated to Darci M. and our summer of '78.
Doctor, my eyes have seen the years And the slow parade of fears without crying Now I want to understand
I have done all that I could To see the evil and the good without hiding You must help me if you can
Doctor, my eyes Tell me what is wrong Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
'Cause I have wandered through this world And as each moment has unfurled I've been waiting to awaken from these dreams People go just where they will I never noticed them until I got this feeling That it's later than it seems
Doctor, my eyes Tell me what you see I hear their cries Just say if it's too late for me
Doctor, my eyes Cannot see the sky Is this the PRICE for having learned how not to cry?
Which of the following is true? Francis outright lies about Islam; he is naive about Islam; he is an appeaser and defeatist who thinks that by not telling the truth about Islam he prevents further radicalization of Muslims.
It ought to be obvious that anyone seeking entry into our country should be ideologically certified. We have no obligation to accept subversive elements. Now those who promote Shari'a are subversive elements. Therefore, we have no obligation to allow them in. Indeed we, or rather the government as representing us the people, has a moral obligation not to let them in.
This is just common sense. Trump, not Hillary, possesses this common sense as he made clear in his outstanding Phoenix immigration speech.
But you loathe Trump the man, don't you? And you have some good reasons. I suggest you make a distinction. There is the candidate and there is the candidate's ideological agenda. Both of the candidates have deeply flawed characters. But one supports a destructive leftist agenda and the other does not. And one or the other will be the next president. It won't be Jill Stein.
So, if you are a conservative, is it not obvious that you must vote for Trump?
So far only two posts have appeared, but the effort looks very promising, and I wish them every success. In the premier post they introduce themselves as follows:
We are academics—graduate students, professors, and independent scholars, mostly in, or closely associated with, the profession of philosophy—who are on the political right. Obviously, we won’t always agree with each other on the finer points. We have no specific checklist of positions or statement of faith. But we all generally identify with the tradition of philosophical conservatism that began with ancient sages like Plato and Aristotle, carried on by Christian thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas, continued through Enlightenment-inspired geniuses like Burke, Tocqueville, and the American Founders, up to economic theorists like Belloc and von Hayek and contemporary authors like Kirk, Buckley, and Sowell. At the heart of this tradition is a family resemblance-related set of beliefs that we think uniquely promotes human flourishing. Whatever contradicts or subverts those beliefs not only inhibits human flourishing, but often promotes evil and suffering.
Such beliefs include, but are not limited to, the belief that all human life is intrinsically valuable, and in virtue of that all humans have natural rights, chiefly the right to live and have their life protected, the responsible exercise of individual liberty, and private ownership and management of justly acquired goods. Those natural rights are grounded in objective reality—human nature, among other things—not government. That reality entails a proper order to family and societal structures, as well as gender and sexuality norms. Maximal respect for those rights will almost always involve minimal intrusion, and most matters should be handled at the level of the closest appropriate authoritative body. These beliefs about ordered liberty and decentralization of power, when extended to the market, generate an economic system that creates more wealth and destroys more poverty than any other.
There is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of academics today are leftists, if not militantly anti-right. We are convinced that they, in some form or another, contradict or subvert the aforementioned beliefs (among others), and so, wittingly or not, inhibit human flourishing and promote evil and suffering. But the fact is that leftists are the power brokers of academia today, and so have the luxury of taking their leftist dogma for granted. Publicly questioning leftist dogma often leads to ostracism and discrimination. We’re tired of being pressured to remain closeted conservatives out of fear of ideological persecution and even more tired of seeing countless students influenced by only one side—a side we find highly unconscionable, to say the least.
We, as academics on the right, created this blog to share perspectives on politically related topics and current events that are rarely represented in other academic blogs, or anywhere else in academia for that matter. Some of our posts will be research oriented. Some of our posts will be critical replies and rebuttals. Some will be satirical and comical. Some will be expository and info-sharing. Some will be philosophically exploratory. But all will be rightly considered.
There follow entertaining biographical sketches of the contributors, one of whom is of the distaff persuasion. One cannot fault them for their pseudonyms given how vicious and vindictive leftists are. The proprietor of a certain philosophy gossip site will be tearing out what little hair he has left trying to determine their identities. My favorite bio is this one:
Conservatrarian Conservatrarian has degrees in philosophy from the US and UK. His present interests include politics and topics in applied ethics. He has published papers in academic philosophy journals on topics that anger leftists.Conservatrarian carries a Glock 19 with a 15 round magazine on his hip at all times, so mess with [him] at your own peril.
I have been asked about this on several occasions, most recently by Kevin W. So here is a redacted repost from over six years ago.
Joe from New York writes:
I have a question about chess. Would you be kind enough to tell me in your opinion what is the one chess book a person should have? What is your favorite? I am presently reading [Irving Chervev's] Logical Chess Move by Move.
I am a patzer.
I think your blog is great.
Thanks for writing, Joe, and for the kind words. I too am a patzer, though on a really good day I am a GP, a Grand Patzer. Although there is no one book that one simply must have, for patzers I recommend Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate. This is a delightful old book written by a couple of French masters. It first appeared in English translation in 1953 and was reprinted by Dover Press in 1962. I believe it was International Master Calvin Blocker who recommended it to me. I am very fond of Dover paperbacks, which are inexpensive and made to last a lifetime. This particular volume is in descriptive notation which fact should gladden the heart of Ed Yetman. It is also full of Romantic old games, wild and swashbuckling, of the sort from which assiduous patzers can learn tactics.
Tactics, tactics, tactics. As important in chess as location, location, location in real estate.
The book is a study of the basic mating patterns. Since checkmate is the object of the game, a thorough study of the basic mates is a logical place to begin the systematic study of chess. That should be followed by work on tactics. The much-maligned Fred Reinfeld is useful here. After that, openings and endings. But the typical patzer -- and I'm no exception to this rule -- spends an inordinate amount of time swotting up openings. But what is the good of achieving a favorable middlegame position if one doesn't know what to do with it? To turn a favorable position into a win you need to know the basic mates, tactics, and at least the rudiments of endgame technique.
There is a lot to learn, and one can and should ask whether it is worth the effort. But patzers like us are unlikely to have our lives derailed by chess. We can sport with Caissa and her charms without too much harm. It is the very strong players, who yet fall short of the highest level, who run the greatest risk. Chess sucks them in then leaves them high and dry. The goddess Caissa becomes the bitch Impecunia. IM Blocker is one example among many.
Our friend the philosopher Patrick Toner has a very interesting and highly unusual article entitled Catholics, Chesterton, and Concealed Carry. If nothing else, it should infuriate liberals, which can't be a bad thing. I leave it to you to think it through.
Now some thoughts of my own.
Suppose a Christian lives alone, without a spouse to look after and without dependents. Should he defend with deadly force against a deadly attack, in a home invasion, say, or should he let himself be slaughtered? I go back and forth on this question.
But suppose you are pater familias with a wife and children to protect. Should you respond to a deadly attack with deadly force? Absolutely. I would argue that such is not only morally permissible but morally obligatory. But then you must prepare for such an eventuality by becoming proficient with firearms. Whence it follows that you must oppose Hillary the Gun Grabber and her destructive ilk.
This is another important reason to vote for Trump. If Miss Mendacity gets in, it could well be curtains for your Second Amendment rights.
The following is by Chris Jackson. I found it at The Remnant and I reproduce the whole of it here. It receives the coveted MavPhilnihil obstat.
This is the most critical presidential election in the history of the United States. Hillary Clinton, a corrupt, radical pro-abortion, anti-Christian, career politician threatens to change the face of America forever. If elected, she will name three to four Supreme Court justices, cementing Roe v. Wade into the Constitution and losing the court for generations, if not forever. Hillary Clinton opposes home schooling and believes it is the government’s right to educate children and not the parents. She will restrict religious speech and persecute Christians who refuse to support her radical social agenda. She will promote illegal immigration and allow millions of unvettted illegal immigrants into our country. The illegal population will vote democrat far into the future so that no candidate with anything approximating Catholic positions will have a viable chance to be elected president. So despite obvious disagreements with him, I believe Catholics have the moral right to vote for the only viable alternative to Hillary Clinton in this election: Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is the first Republican candidate for president to publicly offer a list of Supreme Court justices he will select from. All of the names have been vetted by undeniable pro-life organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. Neither Mitt Romney nor John McCain offered such assurances. Donald Trump has also promised to ensure protections for religious free speech and against punitive governmental action for citizens acting out of religious conviction. In addition, he has just named Mike Pence, a pro-life leader and champion of religious rights as his running mate. There is absolutely no moral justification for any Catholic to vote for Hillary Clinton or to assist Clinton in wining the presidency through not voting or voting for a non-viable third party candidate. The stakes are too high. The price of defeat this November means an anti-Christian executive and judicial branch with no opposition party in congress to offer any effective resistance into the foreseeable future. In other words, not voting for Trump in this election is choosing to commit suicide for our nation and our families.
If you say that Trump is the 'lesser of two evils,' you invite the riposte: why vote for anyone who is evil? Say this instead: "Despite Trump's manifest negatives, he is better than Hillary." And then go on to explain why he is better.
Politics here below is not about Good versus Evil. It is not so Manichean as all that. Politics here below is about better and worse.