Donald Trump's 'traction' is largely due to conservative inaction. I leave aside for the moment that other source of Trumpian traction: the abominations of the Obama administration.
Conservatives are long on talk but short on action. Donald Trump, an alpha male with the billions to be beholden to no one, whose style of self-presentation is reminiscent of il Duce, has populist appeal because he looks to be someone who might finally get at least one thing done, say, stem the invasion of illegals from the south. And stop talking about it.
What have conservatives accomplished since the days of Ronald Reagan?
Here is a severely practical consideration: there is no way Trump can beat Hillary. He has alienated too many groups, women and Hispanics to name two. Add to that the fact that large numbers of conservatives will stay home, and Hillary is in like Flynn. Mark my words.
Let's hope that Trump does not get the Republican nomination. But if he gets it, you must vote for him. For the alternative is far worse. Politics is a practical business. It is not about maintaining your ideological purity, but about getting something accomplished in murky and complex circumstances. It is always about the lesser or least of evils. Trump would be bad, but Hillary worse.
While the 'bow-tie brigade' at National Review and the rest of the conservatives are so right about so much, they are too concerned with being respectable members of the establishment to know how to fight against the Alinskyite left. Hence their measured statements, their pious invocation of the Constitution, their refusal to give as good as they get. They don't realize that politics is not a gentlemanly debate, but war conducted by other means.
In Omnibus of Fallacies, Ed Feser applies his formidable analytic and polemical skills to that sorry specimen of scientism, Jerry Coyne. The First Things review begins like this:
Faith versus Fact is some kind of achievement. Biologist Jerry Coyne has managed to write what might be the worst book yet published in the New Atheist genre. True, the competition for that particular distinction is fierce. But among other volumes in this metastasizing literature, each has at least some small redeeming feature. For example, though Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing is bad as philosophy, it is middling as pop science. Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great was at least written by someone who could write like Christopher Hitchens. Though devoid of interest, Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation is brief. Even PZ Myers’s book The Happy Atheist has at least one advantage over Coyne’s book: It came out first.
Why do I refer to Coyne as a "sorry specimen of scientism?" Is that a nice thing to say? See here, for starters.
An easy-to-read power point presentation with plenty of pictures.
Haack rightly laments hyperprofessionalization and overspecialization in philosophy as well as the detachment of philosophy from its own history. Compare my Kripke's Misrepresentation of Meinong. Fragmentation leads to hermeticism and ahistoricism. True enough. But then she claims that the cause of fragmentation is academic opportunism. This is not quite right since it ignores a legitimate motive for professionalization and specialization, namely, the realization that a necessary but insufficient condition for progress in philosophy is very careful and rigorous work on well-defined issues, with all the preliminary spadework that that requires.
The main problem with what she proposes is that it is naive. She thinks that interdisciplinary work will lead to progress in philosophy. That won't happen. All that will happen is a proliferation of wild and woolly syntheses and "fusions" at odds with one another.
And we should not forget that Haack's metaphilosophical proposals are themselves just more philosophy, just more fodder for controversy. Her colleagues won't (most of them) say, "You're right Professor Haack, let's get going on some interdisciplinary projects." They will ague with her as I am doing now, and some of them with arguments different from mine.
Serious work in philosophy as in other disciplines must be technical: careful, precise, rigorous, respectful of logical niceties and subtle distinctions. It is not done well in isolation but with the help and criticism of epistemic peers. This is what leads to professionalization and the institutionalization of philosophy which are obviously good up to a point and a necessary but not sufficient condition for philosophical progress.
Unfortunately, the incredible proliferation of journals, conferences, philosophy departments along with the intense efforts of the best and the brightest have failed to place philosophy on the "sure path of science" to borrow Kant's phrase. Intellectual honesty demands that we admit that no real progress has been made in philosophy hitherto and that is an excellent induction that none will be made in the future.
This is the bind we are in. I don't see how an interdisciplinary turn could help.
Suppose the true God is the triune God. Then two possibilities. One is that Muslims worship the true God, but not as triune, indeed as non-triune; they worship the true God all right, the same one the Christians worship; it is just that the Muslims have one or more false beliefs about the true God. The other possibility is that Muslims do not worship the true God; they worship a nonexistent God, an idol. We are assuming the truth of monotheism: there is a God, but only one.
Now worship entails reference in the following sense: Necessarily, if I worship the true God, then I successfully refer to the true God. (The converse does not hold). So either (A) the (normative) Muslim successfully refers to the true God under one or more false descriptions, or else (B) he does not successfully refer to the true God at all.
Now which is it, (A) or (B)?
The answer depends on your theory of reference.
Consider this 'Kripkean' scenario. God presents himself to Abraham in person. All of Abraham's experiences on this marvellous occasion are veridical. Abraham 'baptizes God' with the name Yahweh or YHWH. The same name (though in different transliterations and translations) is passed on to people who use it with the intention of preserving the direct reference the name got when Abraham first baptized God with it. The name passes down eventually to Christians and Muslims. Of course the conceptions of God are different for Abraham, St. Paul, and Muhammad. To mention one striking difference: for Paul God became man in Jesus of Nazareth; not so for Muhammad, for whom such a thing is impossible.
If you accept a broadly Millian-Kripkean theory of reference, then it is reasonable to hold that (A) is true. For if the reference of 'God' is determined by an initial baptism or tagging and a causal chain of name transmission, then the reference of 'God' will remain the same even under rather wild variation in the concept of God. The Christian concept includes triunity; the Muslim conception excludes it. That is a radical difference in the conceptions. And yet this radical difference is consistent with sameness of referent. This is because the reference is not routed though the conception: it is not determined by the conception. The reference is determined by the initial tagging and the subsequent name transmission.
Now consider a 'Fressellian' scenario. The meaning of a proper name is not exhausted by its reference. Names are more than Millian tags. It is not just that proper names have senses: they have reference-determining senses. On a descriptivist or 'Fressellian' semantics, a thoughtful tokening by a person P of a proper name N successfully refers to an individual x just in case there exists an x such that x uniquely satisfies the definite descriptions associated with N by P and the members of his linguistic community.
So when a Christian assertively utters a token of 'God is almighty,' his use of 'God' successfully refers to God only if there is something that satisfies the sense the Christian qua Christian associates with 'God.' Now that sense must include being triune. The same goes for the Muslim except that the sense that must be satisfied for the Muslim reference to be successful must include being non-triune.
It should now be clear that, despite the considerable overlap in the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God, they cannot be referring to the same being on the 'Fressellian' theory of reference. For on this theory, sense determines reference, and no one thing can satisfy two senses one of which includes while the other excludes being triune. So we have to conclude, given the assumption of monotheism, that the Christian and Muslim do not refer to one and the same God. Given that the true God is triune, the Christian succeeds in referring to the true God while the Muslim fails. The Muslim does not succeed in referring to anything.
So I continue to maintain that whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God depends on one's theory of reference. This is why the question has no easy answer.
Those who simple-mindedly insist that Christians and Muslims worship numerically the same God are uncritically presupposing a dubious Millian-Kripkean theory of reference.
Exercise for the reader: explain what is wrong with Juan Cole's article below.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, New York Review Books, 1990, p. 101:
Certain rash people have asserted that, just as there are no mice where there are no cats, so no one is possessed where there are no exorcists.
That puts me in mind of anarchists who say that where there are no laws there are no criminals. That is not much better than saying that where there are no chemists there are no chemicals.
Just as there are chemicals whether or not there are any chemists, there are moral wrongs whether or not there are any positive laws prohibiting them. What makes murder wrong is not that there are positive laws prohibiting it; murder is wrong antecedently of the positive law. It is morally wrong before (logically speaking) it is legally wrong. And it is precisely the moral wrongness of murder that justifies having laws against it.
And yet there is a sense in which criminals are legislated into existence: one cannot be a criminal in the eyes of the law unless there is the law. And it is certainly true that to be a criminal in the eyes of the law does not entail being guilty of any moral wrong-doing. But the anarchist goes off the deep end if he thinks that there is no moral justification for any legal prohibitions, or that the wrongness of every act is but an artifact of the law's prohibiting it.
The paradigms of direct reference are the indexicals and the demonstratives. The English letter 'I' is not the English word 'I,' and the word 'I' -- the first-person singular pronoun -- has non-indexical uses. But let's consider a standard indexical use of this pronoun. Tom says to Tina,
I am hungry.
Tom refers to himself directly using 'I.' That means: Tom refers to himself, but not via a description that he uniquely satisfies. The reference is not routed through a reference-determining sense. If you think it is so routed, tell me what the reference-determining sense of your indexical uses of the first person singular pronoun is. I wish you the best of luck.
As I understand it, to say of a singular term that it is directly referential is not to say that it lacks sense, but that it lacks a reference-determining sense. The indexical 'now' does have a sense in that whatever it picks out must be a time, indeed, a time that is present. But this very general sense does not make a use of 'now' refer to the precise time to which it refers. So 'now' is directly referential despite its having a sense.
Consider the demonstrative 'this.' Pointing to a red-hot poker poker, I say 'This is hot!' You agree and say 'This is hot!' We point to the same thing and we say the same thing. The same thing we say is the proposition. The proposition is true. Neither the poker nor its degree of heat are true. The reference of 'this' is direct. It seems to follow that the poker itself is a constituent of the proposition that is before both of our minds and that we agree is true. The poker itself, not an abstract and immaterial surrogate or representative of the material poker. But then propositions are Russellian as opposed to Fregean. The poker itself, the whole infinitely-propertied nasty metallic rod, not an abstract surrogate such as a Fregean sense, is a constituent of the proposition.
How can this be? I grasp the proposition expressed by 'This is hot!' So I grasp its constituents. (Assumption: I cannot grasp or understand a proposition unless I understand its logical parts.) But how is it possible for my poor little finite mind to grasp the hot poker in all its infinitely-propertied reality? Here is an aporetic triad for your consideration:
The proposition is in or before my mind. The hot poker itself is a constituent of the proposition. The hot poker itself is not in or before my mind.
How will you solve this bad boy? Each limb is highly plausible but they cannot all be true.
The first limb is well-nigh datanic. Since I understand the proposition expressed by 'This is hot' asserted while pointing to a hot poker, the proposition is before my mind.
The second limb is plausible because the meaning of 'this' is exhausted by its referent. Surely 'this' lacks a reference-determining or Fregean sense. Since no Fregean sense is the subject-constituent of the proposition, it must be the Fregean referent that is the subject-constituent. That implies that the proposition is not Fregean but Russellian.
The third limb is extremely plausible because a finite intellect cannot have present to it an infinitely-propertied object. For example, the poker is hot and perceived to be hot and is therefore determinate with respect to being hot or not hot; but as perceived by me it is indeterminate with respect to the exact degree of being hot, even though in reality it must have some definite degree of being hot or other.
So that's the puzzle. How do we solve it? Note to London Ed: Tell me whether you think the problem as set forth is genuine as opposed to pseudo. If genuine, how would you solve it?
My tendency is to reject the second limb and affirm that all propositions are Fregean. If all propositions are Fregean, then no proposition has as a constituent an infinitely-propertied material object such as a red-hot poker.
But if I say this, then it seems that I cannot say that the reference of 'this' is direct. But if not direct, then mediated by a Fregean sense. What then is the sense of 'this'? It seems obvious that it cannot have a Fregean sense.
Perhaps the solution is to say that the reference of 'this' is direct all right, but not to an infinitely-propertied chunk of physical reality, but to an incomplete object, something like what Hector-Neri Castaneda calls an "ontological guise" or what Husserl calls a noema. But if these incomplete objects are not to be mediating items standing between the mind and the infinitely-propertied massive chunk of physical reality, then these incomplete objects or ontological guises must be constituents, ontological parts of the massive chunk, "consubstantiated" guises that constitute a complete mind-independent existent.
In "Vacuous Names and Fictional Entities" (in Philosophical Troubles, Oxford UP, 2011, pp. 52-74) Saul Kripke distances himself from the following view that he ascribes to Alexius Meinong:
Many people have gotten confused about these matters because they have said, 'Surely there are fictional characters who fictionally do such-and-such things; but fictional characters don't exist; therefore some view like Meinong's with a first-class existence and a second-class existence, or a broad existence and a narrow existence, must be the case'.23 This is not what I am saying here. (p. 64)
Footnote 23 reads as follows:
At any rate, this is how Meinong is characterized by Russell in 'On Denoting'. I confess that I have never read Meinong and I don't know whether the characterization is accurate. It should be remembered that Meinong is a philosopher whom Russell (at least originally) respected; the characterization is unlikely to be a caricature.
But it is a caricature and at this late date it is well known to be a caricature. What is astonishing about all this is that Kripke had 38 years to learn a few basic facts about Meinong's views from the time he read (or talked) his paper in March of 1973 to its publication in 2011 in Philosophical Troubles. But instead he chose to repeat Russell's caricature of Meinong in his 2011 publication. Here is what Kripke could have quickly learned about Meinong's views from a conversation with a well-informed colleague or by reading a competent article:
Some objects exist and some do not. Thus horses exist while unicorns do not. Among the objects that do not exist, some subsist and some do not. Subsistents include properties, mathematical objects and states of affairs. Thus there are two modes of being, existence and subsistence. Spatiotemporal items exist while ideal/abstract objects subsist.
Now what is distinctive about Meinong is his surprising claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist. The objects that neither exist nor subsist are those that have no being at all. Examples of such objects are the round square, the golden mountain, and purely fictional objects. These items have properties -- actually not possibly -- but they have no being. They are ausserseiend. Aussersein, however, is not a third mode of being.
Meinong's fundamental idea, whether right or wrong, coherent or incoherent, is that there are subjects of true predications that have no being whatsoever. Thus an item can have a nature, a Sosein, without having being, wihout Sein. This is the characteristic Meinongian principle of the independence of Sosein from Sein.
Kripke's mistake is to ascribe to Meinong the view that purely fictional items are subsistents when for Meinong they have no being whatsoever. He repeats Russell's mistake of conflating the ausserseiend with the subsistent.
The cavalier attitude displayed by Kripke in the above footnote is not uncommon among analytic philosophers. They think one can philosophize responsibly without bothering to attend carefully to what great thinkers of the tradition have actually maintained, while at the same time dropping their names: Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Brentano, Meinong. For each of the foregoing I could give an example of a thesis attributed to them that has little or nothing to do with what they actually maintained.
I suppose what really irks me here is not so much the ignoring of the greats, but the ignoring in tandem with the dropping of their names. There is something intellectually dishonest about wanting to avoid the work of studying the great philosophers while also either invoking their authority, or else using them as whipping boys, by dropping their names.
Does the cavalier attitude of most analytic philosophers to the history of philosophy matter? In particular, does it matter that Kripke and plenty of others continue to ignore and misrepresent Meinong? And are not embarrassed to confess their ignorance? This depends on how one views philosophy in relation to its history.
The monastery, called Dair Mar Elia, is named for the Assyrian Christian monk — St. Elijah — who built it between 582 and 590 A.C. It was a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast's Chaldean Catholic community.
In 1743, tragedy struck when as many as 150 monks who refused to convert to Islam were massacred under orders of a Persian general, and the monastery was damaged. For the next two centuries it remained a place of pilgrimage, even after it was incorporated into an Iraqi military training base and later a U.S. base.
But of course, Islam is the religion of peace and no true Muslim would have been involved in such destruction.
An excellent article by Walter Russell Meade. Study it, muchachos. Yes, this will be on the final.
A revenant is one who has returned from the dead or from a long absence.
Has Old Hickory come back as Donald Trump?
Though I despise contemporary liberalism and leftism (any difference?), that doesn't quite put me on the Jacksonian right. Meade:
Lynch law and Jim Crow were manifestations of Jacksonian communalism, and there are few examples of race, religious or ethnic prejudice in which Jacksonian America hasn’t indulged.
[. . .]
Jacksonians are neither liberal nor conservative in the ways that political elites use those terms; they are radically egalitarian, radically pro-middle class, radically patriotic, radically pro-Social Security.
I am too much of an intellectual, and too much of an old-time liberal, to be a Jacksonian. At the bottom of the Jacksonian bucket are the rednecks and know-nothings. You know the type. The guy who shoots out the windows of a convenience store because he thinks the proprietor is a Muslim when in fact he is a Sikh. He doesn't know the difference between a Muslim and a Hindu because he doesn't read books. He is too busy swilling Budweiser at NASCAR events and tractor-pulls. (He had hisself a coupla Buds but he was none the wiser.)
At the bottom of that same Jacksonian bucket are the jingoists who confuse jingoism with patriotism. "My country right or wrong." And while I believe that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence sense, and all deserve equal treatment before the law, I am no radical egalitarian. I am an elitist, but in the best possible sense of that word. People are obviously not equal in respect of any empirical attribute. You could put it like this: we are all equal before God, equally wretched, but among one another plainly unequal spiritually, mentally, morally, and physically. But my elitism has nothing to do with inherited privilege or blood lines and the like. It is an elitism grounded in talent and ability and the individual's free development of his talents and abilities. True, you did nothing to deserve your God- or nature-given talent, but you have nonetheless a right to its possession and development. If you develop your talents in accordance with the old virtues and become unequal to others in respect of the three Ps (position, power, and pelf), then so be it. Material equality, as such, is not a value.
But if comes down to a fight with vile and destructive leftists, you can bet I will be on the side of the Jacksonian good old boys, locked and loaded. Meade concludes:
Whatever happens to the Trump candidacy, it now seems clear that Jacksonian America is rousing itself to fight for its identity, its culture and its primacy in a country that it believes it should own. Its cultural values have been traduced, its economic interests disregarded, and its future as the center of gravity of American political life is under attack. Overseas, it sees traditional rivals like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran making headway against a President that it distrusts; more troubling still, in ISIS and jihadi terror it sees the rapid spread of a movement aiming at the mass murder of Americans. Jacksonian America has lost all confidence in the will or the ability of the political establishment to fight the threats it sees abroad and at home. It wants what it has always wanted: to take its future into its own hands.The biggest story in American politics today is this: Andrew Jackson is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.
Do you want to comment on the following post? Here is how to do it properly. You must address head-on what I say. For example, in (A) below I make a distinction between referring and non-referring terms. Tell me whether you agree or not. If you don't, tell me why. Or you can ask me a question.
Preliminary point on sound philosophical method. Make all the distinctions one can think to make, assuming that they have some fundamentum in re and are not merely verbal, like the 'distinction' between a firefly and a glow bug. Later we can decide which distinctions are ultimately sustainable.
To think clearly about reference we must make at least the following distinctions. A philosopher's motto: Distinguo ergo sum.
A. Referring terms versus non-referring terms. 'London' is presumably a referring term as is 'Scollay Square.' 'And,' 'or' and other logical words are presumably not referring terms. Surely not every bit of language plays a referential role. Some terms are syncategorematical or synsemantic.
B. Purported reference versus successful reference. Asserting 'Scollay Square is in Boston,' I purport to refer to Scollay Square. But I fail: the square no longer exists. But if I say 'Trafalgar Square is in London,' I succeed in referring to Trafalgar Square.
C. Guaranteed successful reference versus contingent successful reference. It is not obvious that the first-personal singular pronoun is a referring term. Elizabeth Anscombe, following Wittgenstein, denies that it is. But I say that 'I' is a referring term. Suppose it is. Then it is guaranteed against reference failure: a correct use of 'I' cannot fail to have a referent and it cannot fail to have the right referent. The cooperation of the world is not needed for success in this instance. If I try to make a reference using 'I' I will succeed every time. But the cooperation of the world is needed for successful reference via proper names such as 'Scollay Square.' If I try to make a reference using a proper name I can fail if the name has no (existing) bearer, or if I get hold of the wrong (existing) bearer.
D. Reference versus referents. The referent of a term is not to be confused with its reference. 'Scollay Square' is a referring term and it has a reference, but it has no referent. Not all reference is successful reference.
E. Mental reference versus linguistic reference. Necessarily, to think is to think of or about. Thinking is object-directed. Thinking is essentially and intrinsically referential. It can occur wordlessly. It is arguably at the basis of all reference, including reference via language. Just as guns don't kill people, but people kill people using guns; words don't refer to things, but people refer to things using words. The referentiality of language is derivative from the intrinsic, non-derivative, referentiality of mind.
F. Extralinguistic versus purely intralinguistic reference. Consider the following sentence from a piece of pure fiction: 'Tom's wife left him.' The antecedent of the pronoun 'him' is Tom.' This back reference is purely intralinguistic. It is plajusible to maintain that the only reference exhibited by 'him' is back reference, and that 'him' does not pick up the extralinguistic reference of 'Tom,' there being no such reference to pick up. Then we would have case of purely intralinguistic reference.
G. Extralinguistic per se reference versus extralinguistic per alium reference. 'Max' names (is the name of) one of my two black cats; 'Manny' names (is the name of) the other. These are cases of extralinguistic per se reference. But 'he' in the following sentence, while it refers extralinguistically, refers per alium, 'through another':
Max is sick because he ate too much.
The extralinguistic reference of the pronoun piggy-backs on the the extralinguistic reference of its antecedent. The pronoun has no extralinguistic referential contribution of its own to make.
H. Grammatical pronouns can function pronominally, indexically, and quantificationally. Consider first a sentence featuring a pronoun that has an antecedent:
Peter always calls before he visits.
In this sentence, 'Peter' is the antecedent of the third-person singular pronoun 'he.' It is worth noting that an antecedent needn't come before the term for which it is the antecedent:
After he got home, Peter poured himself a drink.
In this sentence 'Peter' is the antecedent of 'he' despite occurring after 'he' in the order of reading. The antecedency is referential rather than temporal. In both of these cases, the reference of 'he' is supplied by the antecedent. The burden of reference is borne by the antecedent. So there is a clear sense in which the reference of 'he' in both cases is not direct, but mediated by the antecedent. The antecedent is referentially prior to to the pronoun for which it is the antecedent. But suppose I point to Peter and say
He smokes cigarettes.
This is an indexical use of 'he.' Part of what makes it an indexical use is that its reference depends on the context of utterance: I utter a token of 'he' while pointing at Peter, or nodding in his direction. Another part of what makes it an indexical is that it refers directly, not just in the sense that the reference is not routed through a description or sense associated with the use of the pronoun, but also in that there is no need for an antecedent to secure the reference. Now suppose I say
I smoke cigars.
This use of 'I' is clearly indexical, although it is a purely indexical (D. Kaplan) inasmuch as there is no need for a demonstration: I don't need to point to myself when I say 'I smoke cigars.' And like the immediately preceding example, there is no need for an antecedent to nail down the reference of 'I.' Not every pronoun needs an antecedent to do a referential job.
In fact, it seems that no indexical expression, used indexically, has or could have an antecedent. Hector-Neri Castaneda puts it like this:
Whether in oratio recta or in oratio obliqua, (genuine) indicators have no antecedents. ("Indicators and Quasi-Indicators" reprinted in The Phenomeno-Logic of the I, p. 67)
For a quantificational use of a grammatical pronoun, consider
He who hesitates is lost.
(One can imagine Yogi Berra asking, 'You mean Peter?') Clearly, 'he' does not function here pronominally -- there is no antecedent -- not does it function indexically. It functions like the bound variable in
For any person x, if x hesitates, then x is lost.
I. Reference via names, via definite descriptions, via indefinite descriptions. 'Socrates,' 'the wisest Greek philosopher,' 'a famous Greek philosopher of antiquity.' Do they all refer? Or only the first two? Or only the first?
J. Successful reference to the nonexistent versus failed reference to the existent. Does 'Pegasus' fail to refer to something that exists or succeed in referring to what does not exist? Meinongian semantics cannot be dismissed out of hand!
K. Speaker's reference versus semantic reference. 'The man in the corner drinking champagne is the new dean.' Suppose there is exactly one man in the corner drinking water out of a champagne glass. Has the speaker of the mentioned sentence succeeded in referring to the man in the corner? Presumably yes despite the man's not satisfying the definite description in subject position. Here speaker's reference and semantic reference come apart. This connects up with distinction (E) above.
Like many conservatives, I didn't start out as one. My background is working class, my parents were Democrats, and so was I until the age of 41. I came of age in the '60s. One of my heroes was John F. Kennedy, "the intrepid skipper of the PT 109" as I described him in a school essay written in the fifth grade. I was all for the Civil Rights movement. Musically my heroes were Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I thrilled to his Blowin' in the Wind and other civil rights anthems.
As I see it, those civil rights battles were fought and they were won. But then the rot set in as the the party of JFK liberals became the extremists and the destructive leftists that they are today. For example, Affirmative Action in its original sense gave way to reverse discrimination, race-norming, minority set-asides, identity politics and the betrayal of Martin Luther King's dream that people be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
As liberals have become extremists, people with moderate views such as myself have become conservatives. These days I am a registered Independent.
She says that it is too important to be left to philosophers. She is right that the debate is important and has practical consequences, although I don't think any of the philosophers who have 'piped up' recently (Beckwith, Tuggy, Feser, Rea, Vallicella, et al.) want to take the debate merely as a point of entry into technical questions about reference and identity.
One of the points McGrew makes is one I have repeatedly made as well, namely, that the sorts of examples proffered by Francis Beckwith, Dale Tuggy, and Edward Feser beg the question. If the question is whether Christians and Muslims worship and refer to the same God, one cannot just assume that they do and then take one's task to be one of explaining how it is possible. Of course it is possible to refer to one and the same thing under different descriptions. But how does that show that in the case before us there is one and the same thing?
Another point that McGrew makes that I have also made is that one cannot show that the Christian and Muslim God are the same because their respective conceptions significantly overlap. No doubt they do: for both religions there is exactly one God, transcendent of his creation, who is himself uncreated, etc. But the overlap is insufficient to show numerical identity because of the highly important differences. Could one reasonably claim that classical theists and Spinozists worship the same God? I don't think so. The difference in attributes is too great. The reasonable thing to say is that if classical theism is true, then Spinozists worship a nonexistent God. Similarly, the difference between a triune God who entered the material realm to share our life and misery for our salvation and a non-triune God whose radical transcendence renders Incarnation impossible is such a huge difference that it is reasonable to take it as showing that the Christian and Muslim Gods cannot be the same.
McGrew and I also agree in rejecting what I will call the 'symmetry argument': since Jews and Christian worship the same God, the Christians and Muslims also worship the same God. It doesn't follow. Roughly, the Christian revelation does not contradict the Jewish revelation on the matter of the Trinity, since the Jews took no stand on this question before the time of Jesus. The Christian revelation supplements the Jewish revelation. The Islamic 'revelation,' however, contradicts the Christian one by explicitly specifying that God cannot be triune and must be disincarnate.
McGrew is certainly right that the 'same God' question ". . . can’t be decided by a flick of the philosophical wrist." And this needed to be said. Where I may be differing from her, though, is that on my view a really satisfactory resolution of the questions cannot be achieved unless and until we achieve real clarity about the underlying questions about reference, identity, existence, property-possession, and so on. It is highly unlikely, however, that these questions will ever be answered to the satisfaction of all competent practioners.
Where does this leave the ordinary Christian believer? Should he accept the same God thesis? It is not clear to me that he needs to take any position on it at all. But if he feels the need to take a stand, I say to him that he can rest assured that his non-acceptance of it is rationally justifiable.
Jimmy Elledge, Funny How Time Slips Away. Born January 8, 1943 in Nashville, Elledge died June 10, 2012 after complications following a stroke. The song, written by Willie Nelson, made the #22 slot on Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, and sold over one million copies. Elledge never had another hit. As a YouTube commenter pointed out, that does sound like Floyd Cramer tickling the ivories. A great song. I always thought it was a female singing.
Rosie and the Originals, Angel Baby, 1960. Perfect for cruising Whittier Boulevard in your '57 Chevy on a Saturday Night.
Norma Tanega, Walkin' My Cat Named 'Dog,' 1966. A forgotten oldie if ever there was one. If you remember this bit of vintage vinyl, one of the strangest songs of the '60s, I'll buy you a beer or a cat named 'dog.' One.
UPDATE 1/17: Dave B. tells me that I owe his wife Ronda a beer:
Yeah she remembered that song from the opening riff.
What a waste of a nice Gibson SG...
You are quite right, Dave: the girl is flailing at a Gibson SG standard. Clapton, a.k.a 'God,' played them before switching over to Fender Strats. I wanted an SG back around '67 or '68 but they were too much in demand. So I 'settled' for a Gibson ES 335TD. But then I did the dumbest thing I ever did a few years later.
London Ed propounds a difficulty for our delectation and possible solution:
Clearly the difficulty with the intralinguistic theory is its apparent absurdity, but I am trying to turn this around. What can we say about extralinguistic reference? What actually is the extralinguistic theory? You argue that the pronoun ‘he’ inherits a reference from its antecedent, so that the pronoun does refer extralinguistically, but only per alium, not per se.
Mark 14:51 And there followed him [Jesus] a certain young man (νεανίσκος τις) , having a linen cloth (σινδόνα) cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him. 14:52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
So the pronoun ‘he’ inherits its reference through its antecedent. But the antecedent is the noun phrase ‘a certain young man’. On your theory, does this refer extralinguistically? That’s a problem, because indefinite noun phrases traditionally do not refer, indeed that’s the whole point of them. ‘a certain young man’ translates the Latin ‘adulescens quidam’ which in turn translates the Greek ‘νεανίσκος τις’. Here ‘certain’ (Latin quidam, Greek τις) signifies that the speaker knows who he is talking about, but declines to tell the audience who this is. Many commentators have speculated that the man was Mark himself, the author of the gospel, which if true means that ‘a certain young man’ and the pronouns, could be replaced with ‘I’, salva veritate. But Mark deliberately does not tell us.
So, question 1, in what sense does the indefinite noun phrase refer, given that, on the extralinguistic theory, it has to be the primary referring phrase, from which all subsequent back-reference inherits its reference?
A. First of all, it is not clear why Ed says, ". . . indefinite noun phrases traditionally do not refer, indeed that’s the whole point of them." Following Fred Sommers, in traditional formal logic (TFL) as opposed to modern predicate logic (MPL), indefinite noun phrases do refer. (See Chapter 3, "Indefinite Reference" of The Logic of Natural Language.) Thus the subject terms in 'Some senator is a physician' and 'A physician is running for president' refer, traditionally, to some senator and to a physician. This may be logically objectionable by Fregean lights but it is surely traditional. That's one quibble. A second is that it is not clear why Ed says "that's the whole point of them."
So the whole point of a tokening of 'a certain young man' is to avoid making an extralinguistic reference? I don't understand.
B. Ed says there is a problem on my view. A lover of aporetic polyads, I shall try to massage it into one. I submit for your solution the following inconsistent pentad:
a. There are only two kinds of extralinguistic reference: via logically proper names, including demonstratives and indexicals, and via definite descriptions. b. The extralinguistic reference of a grammatical pronoun used pronominally (as opposed to quantificationally or indexically) piggy-backs on the extralinguistic reference of its antecedent. It is per alium not per se. c. 'His,' 'him,' and 'he' in the verse from Mark are pronouns used pronominally the antecedent of which is 'a certain young man.' d. 'A certain young man' in the verse from Mark is neither a logically proper name nor a definite description. e. 'A certain young man' in the verse from Mark refers extralinguistically on pain of the sentence of which it is a part being not true.
The pentad is inconsistent.
The middle three limbs strike me as datanic. So there are two possible solutions.
One is (a)-rejection. Maintain as Sommers does that indefinite descriptions can refer. This 'solution' bangs up against the critique of Peter Geach and other Fregeans.
The other is (e)-rejection. Deny that there is any extralinguistic reference at all. This, I think, is Ed's line. Makes no sense to me, though.
I wonder: could Ed be toying with the idea of using the first four limbs as premises in an argument to the conclusion that all reference is intralinguistic? I hope not.
Suppose I point out a certain tree in the distance to Dale and remark upon its strange shape. I say, "That tree has a strange shape." Dale responds, "That's not a tree; that's a scarecrow!" Suppose we are looking at the same thing, a physical thing that exists in the external world independently of us. But what I take to be a tree, Dale takes to be a scarecrow. Suppose further that the thing in the external world, whatever it is, is the salient cause of our having our respective visual experiences. Are we referring to the same thing? The cause of the visual experiences is the same, but are the referents of our demonstrative phrases the same? Could we say that the referents are the same because the cause is the same?
If this makes sense, then perhaps we can apply it to the 'same God?' problem.
'Same cause, same referent' implies that the cause of my tokening of 'That tree' is its referent. It implies that we can account for successful reference in terms of physical causation. The idea is that what makes my use of 'that tree' successfully refer to an existing tree, this particular tree, and not to anything else is the tree's causing of my use of the phrase, and if not the tree itself, then some physical events involving the tree.
But the notion of salience causes trouble for this causal account of reference. What make a causal factor salient? What makes it jump out from all the other causal factors to assume the status of 'the cause'? (Salire, Latin, to jump.) After all, there are many causal factors involved in any instance of causation. Can we account for reference causally without surreptitiously presupposing irreducibly intentional and referential notions? Successful reference picks out its object from others. It gets to an existing object, and to the right object. Causation might not be up to this task. I shall argue that it is not.
We often in ordinary English speak of 'the cause' of some event, a myocardial infarction say, even though there are many contributing factors: bad diet, lack of exercise, hypertension, cigarette smoking, high stress job, an episode of snow-shoveling. Which of these will be adjudged 'the cause' is context- and interest-relative. A physician who gets a kick-back from a pharmaceutical concern will point to hypertension, perhaps, so that he can prescribe anangiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, while the man's wife might say that it was the snow shoveling that did him in. A liberal might say that the heart attack was caused by smoking.
Or suppose a short-circuit is cited as 'the cause' of a fire. In terms of fundamental physics, the whole state of the world at time determines its state at subsequent times. At this level, a short-circuit and the power's being on are equally causal in respect of a fire. Our saying that the short-circuit caused the fire, not the power's being on, simply advertises the fact that for us the latter is the normal and desired state of things, the state we have an interest in maintaining, and that the former is the opposite. Desire and interest are of course intentional notions: to desire is to desire something; to be interested is to be interested in something.
What these examples show is that there is an ordinary-language use of 'cause' which is context-sensitive and interest-relative. The ordinary notion of cause, then, resting as it does on our interests and desires, presupposes intentional notions. I cannot be interested in or desire something unless I am conscious of it. And I cannot adjudge one state of affairs as normal and the other as abnormal unless I have interests and desires.
In the case of my tokening of 'that tree,' what justifies us in saying that it is the tree that causes the tokening as opposed the total set of causal conditions including sunlight, my corrective lenses, my not having ingested LSD, the absence of smoke and fog, the proper functioning of my visual cortex, etc.? How is it that we select the tree as 'the cause'? And what about this selecting? It cannot be accounted for in terms of physical causation. The tree does not select itself as salient cause. We select it. But then selecting is an intentional performance. So intentionality, which underpins both mental and linguistic reference, comes back in through the back door.
The upshot is that an account of successful reference in terms of causation is viciously circular. What makes 'that tree' as tokened by me here and now refer to the tree in front of me? It cannot be the total cause of the tokening which includes all sorts of causal factors other than tree such as light and the absence of fog. It must be the salient cause. To select this salient cause from the among the various casual factors is to engage in an intentional performance. So reference presupposes intentionality and cannot be accounted for in non-intentional, purely causal, terms. Otherwise you move in an explanatory cricle of embarrassingly short diameter.
The point could be put as follows: I must already (logically speaking) have achieved reference to the tree in a noncausal way if I am then to single out the tree as the physical cause of my successful mental and linguistic reference.
Of course, I am not denying that various material and causal factors underpin mental and linguistic reference. What I am maintaining is that these factors are useless when it comes to providing a noncircular account of reference.
Now if causation cannot account for reference, then it cannot account for sameness of reference.
Dale and I are both in perceptual states. These two perceptual states have a common cause. But this common cause cannot be what makes one of our references successful and the other unsuccessful.
Christ and Allah
The above questions are analogs of the 'Same God?' question. Suppose a Christian and a Muslim each has a mystical or religious experience of the same type, that of the Inner Locution. Each cries out in prayer and each 'hears' the inner locution, "I am with you," and a deep peace descends upon him. Each is thankful and expresses his thanks. Suppose God exists and is the source of both of these locutions. But while the Christian may interpret the source of his experience in Trinitarian terms, the Muslim will not. Suppose the Christian takes the One who is answering to be a Person of the Trinity, Christ, while the Muslim takes it to be Allah who is answering. In expressing his thankfulness, the Christian prayerfully addresses Christ while the Muslim prayerfully addresses Allah.
Are Christian and Muslim referring to one and the same divine being? Yes, if the referent is the source/cause of the inner locutions. But this common cause does not select as between Christ and Allah, and so the common cause does not suffice to establish that Christian and Muslim are referring to one and the same divine being.
Lukas Novak thinks I am being politically, or rather philosophically, 'correct' in rejecting Meinongianism. And a relier on 'intuitions' to boot. I plead innocent to the first charge. As for the second, I rather doubt one can do philosophy at all without appealing to some intuition somewhere. That would make for an interesting metaphilosophical discussion. For now, however, an argument against Meinongianism. I will join the Frenchman to beat back the Austrian. But first we have to understand at least some of what the great Austrian philosopher Alexius von Meinong was about. What follows is a rough sketch that leaves a lot out. It is based on Meinong's writings, but also on those of distinguished commentators including J. N. Findlay, Roderick Chisholm, Karel Lambert, Terence Parsons, Richard Routley/Sylvan, Reinhardt Grossmann, and others.
A Meinongian Primer
The characteristic Meinongian thesis is the doctrine that some items have no Being whatsoever: they neither exist nor subsist nor have any other mode of Being. A Meinongian item (M-item) is something, not nothing; it is just that it has no Being. A famous example is the golden mountain. It has no Being at all according to Meinong. It is a pure Sosein, a pure whatness, a Sosein without Dasein, "beyond Being and non-Being." (jenseits von Sein und Nichtsein.) What's more, the golden mountain actually has properties: it is actually made of gold and actually a mountain. It is not merely possibly these things, nor is it merely imagined or merely thought to be these things. The golden mountain is actually made of gold even though it does not exist or subsist or enjoy esse intentionale or any other mode of Being!
Furthermore, the golden mountain, though in one sense merely possible, is in itself actual, not merely possible. It is merely possible in relation to existence, but in itself it is actual, though nonexistent. The realm of Aussersein is a realm of actualia. This holds also for the round square which is both actually round and actually square. It is in one sense impossible: it cannot exist, or subsist either. But it is not nothing: it is some actual item even though it has no Being whatsoever. Actually round, actually square, actually an item!
We should also note that the golden mountain is an incomplete object: it has exactly two properties, the ones mentioned, but none of their entailments. The set of an M-object's properties is not closed under entailment. Consider the blue triangle. It is not colored. Nor is it either isoceles nor not isoceles.
A number of philosophers, Kant being one of them, held to the Indifference of Sosein and Sein, but what is characteristic of Meinong is the radical Independence of Sosein from Sein:
Indifference: The being or nonbeing of an item is no part of its nature or Sosein. Whether an item is or is not makes no difference to what it is.
Independence: An item has a nature or Sosein whether or not it has Being and so even if it has no Being at all. In no instance does property-possession entail existence. There are no existence-entailing properties.
The two principles are clearly distinct. The first principle implies that nothing is such that its nature entails its existence. But it is neutral on the question that the second principle takes a stand on. For the second principle implies that an item can actually have a nature without existing, and indeed without having any Being at all. (Nature = conjunction of monadic properties.)
Independence entails Indifference. For if an item has a nature whether or not it has Being, then a fortiori it is what it is whether or not it is. But the converse entailment does not hold. For consistently with holding Indifference one could hold that Being is a necessary condition of property-possession: nothing can have properties unless it either exists or subsists or has some other mode of Being. Independence, however, implies that the actual possession of properties does not require that the property-possessor have any Being at all.
Do I know, and how do I know, that I am not a nonexistent object, say, a purely fictional individual like Hamlet? Can I employ the Cartesian cogito to assure myself that I am not a nonexistent person?
If anything can count as an established result in philosophy, it is the soundness of Descartes' famous cogito ergo sum 'argument.' Thus to the query, 'How do I know that I exist?', the Cartesian answer is that the very act of doubting that one exists proves that one indubitably exists. Now this may not amount to a proof that a substantial self, a res cogitans, exists; and this for the reason that one may doubt whether acts of thinking emanate from a metaphysical ego. But the cogito certainly does prove that something exists, even if this is only an act of thinking or a momentary bundle of acts of thinking. Thus I know with certainty that my present doubting is not a nonexistent object. But if Meinong were right, my present doubting could easily be a nonexistent object, indeed, a nonexistent object that actually has the property of being indubitably apparent to itself.
For on Meinongian principles, I could, for all I could claim to know, be a fictional character, one who cannot doubt his own existence. In that case, the inability to doubt one's own existence would not prove that one actually exists. This intolerable result certainly looks like a reductio ad absurdum of the Meinongian theory. If anything is clear, it is that I know, in the strictest sense of the word, that I am not a fictional character. My present doubting that I exist is an object that has the property of being indubitable, but cannot have this property without existing. It follows that there are objects whose actual possession of properties entails their existence. This implies the falsity of Meinong's principle of the independence of Sosein from Sein, and with it the view that existence is extrinsic to every object. Forced to choose between Descartes and Meinong, we ought to side with Descartes.
Is the Above Argument Rationally Compelling?
What is the difference between me enacting the cogito and a purely fictional Hamlet-like character -- Hamlet* -- enacting the cogito? What I want to say is that Hamlet* is not an actual individual and does not actually have any properties, including the property of being unable to doubt his own existence. Unlike me. I really exist and can assure myself of my existence as a thinking thing via the cogito, but Hamlet* is purely fictional, hence does not exist and so cannot assure himself of his existence via the cogito.
That is what I want to say, of course, but then I beg the question against Meinong. For if an item can actually have properties without existing, then it is epistemically possible that I am in the same 'boat' with Hamlet*: we are both purely fictional nonexistent items.
So I don't believe I can show compellingly that Meinong is wrong in his characteristic claims using the Cartesian cogito. But I have given an argument, and it is a reasonable argument. So I am rationally justified in rejecting Meinongianism, and justified in just insisting that I am of course not a nonexistent person but a fully existent person with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto.
This fits nicely with my metaphilosophy which teaches that there are no rationally compelling arguments for ANY substantive thesis in philosophy and cognate areas of controversy.
So this is enough to answer Novak's first charge. And perhaps also his second. In the end I recur to the intuition that I really exist, and that I am not merely possible, or purely fictional, or nonexistent. The appeal to intuition is justified. And must not Novak also appeal to an intuition if he disagrees with me, the intution, say, that some items have no Being at all? Or does he have a knock-down argument for that thesis?
If we're still driving cars despite thousands of automobile accident deaths per year, we don't really set the value of human life so high that attacks in Paris (130 victims) and San Bernardino (22 victims) objectively warrant the massive media attention, revolutions in foreign policy, and proposals to shut the borders completely to Muslims that they evoke. Such events get such attention because of statistical illiteracy.
A truism is a truth that is obviously true. The above, however, is not true at all, let alone obviously true. It is obviously idiotic.
The Caplan/Smith argument is that because the number of auto-related deaths is much greater than terror-related deaths so far, a high level of concern about terrorism is not objectively warranted.
But this sort of reasoning involves vicious abstraction. It is highly unreasonable to consider merely the numbers on both sides while abstracting from the motives of the terrorists and the societal impact of terrorism. With very few exceptions, drivers do not intend to kill anyone, and when their actions bring about deaths, those deaths involve only themselves and a few others.
Suppose a drunk driver unintentionally causes the death of himself and a family of five. Total deaths = 6. Other people will be affected, of course, but not many. (The wife and children of the drunk driver will now have less income to get by on, etc.) The effects are confined to a small circle of acquaintances and the effects are not additive in the way that the effects of terror events are additive.
One cannot reasonably abstract from the political agenda of terrorists and the effects even a few terrorist events have on an entire society. Ask yourself: has your life changed at all since 9/11? It most certainly has if you travel by air whether domestically or internationally. And even if you don't. Terrorists don't have to kill large numbers to attain their political goal and wreak large-scale disruption. The Tsarnaev attack on the Boston Marathon shut down the city for a few days. Same with Paris, San Bernardino, Madrid, London, etc. That had all sorts of repercussions economic and psychological.
And if you care about civil liberties, then you should take the terror threat seriously and do your bit to combat it. For the more terror, the more government surveillance and the more infringement of civil liberties.
There is also the obvious point that jihadis would kill millions if they could. Would they use nukes against the West if they could? Of course they would. And that would change the raw numbers!
UPDATE 1/15. Today's Wall Street Journal, B1, reports that travel to Paris plunged in the wake of the November terror attacks. International flight bookings to Paris were down by 78% from Italy, 64% from Spain, 62% from other, 54% from the U.S., 51% from China, 48% from the U. K., 48% from Germany, and 41% from Canada. This for the period from 14 November to 15 December, 2105, as compared to a year earlier.
And yet only 130 were killed in the recent Parisian terror attacks. What this shows is that terrorists do not have to kill large numbers of people to have a huge effect on the world economy and on the quality of life everywhere. The fact that the people who stayed away vastly overestimated the danger to themselves is irrelevant.
An outstanding essay by Victor Davis Hanson, except that he fails to address the question of Muslim immigration and the question of a moratorium on it. A failure of nerve? A desire to remain comfortably respectable in his ivory tower? You will recall the 'conservative' Lindsay Graham's denunciation of Donald Trump as a 'xenophobe' when he made his moratorium proposal. That's exactly how liberals talk! The implication is that one has an irrational fear of foreigners because one has an entirely reasonable desire to keep jihadis out of the country.
How insidious is political correctness! It infects even conservatives.
Within this scheme, where to locate Islam? For Christians and Jews alike, the difficulty—and the embarrassment—lie in the indisputable fact that Islam believes in one God, eternal, almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, merciful. Is not this formula, which I have adapted from the Christian credo, continuous with the words spoken by the Lord when He passed before Moses on Mount Sinai at the second giving of the Ten Commandments? Yes. But those same Ten Commandments open by identifying God as the liberator of His people in a particular historical situation: “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” In the God of the Qur’an, there is no such history.
Nor is that the only problem that presents itself if one tries to approach Islam as a revealed religion, at least as Christians and Jews understand the term. The Christian Church believes that it is the desire of the revealed God to manifest Himself and communicate His message of redemption, letting man know of the truths that elude the grasp of the human mind unaided by grace. To the revelation contained in the Hebrew Bible, the Christians added a “new testament,” while continuing to recognize the full authority of the document given before the arrival of their messiah.
Muslims also hold that they received a revelation. It is conceived, however, not as part of a historical narrative but as the transmission of an eternally preexisting text. In this transmission, the prophet, Muhammad, does not play a role akin to that of Moses and Jesus. He does nothing but receive texts, which he repeats as if under dictation. As opposed to the Bible, which Christians declare to have been “inspired,” the Qur’an is uncreated. It is the uncreated Word of God.
[. . .]
Thus, for a Christian as for a Jew, there can be no continuity between the Bible and the Qur’an. The point holds even for those passages reflecting an evident concurrence on the idea of the one God. Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and even more so to the Christian conception of God, is “Father”—i.e., a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relation with men. The one God of the Qur’an, the God Who demands submission, is a distant God; to call him “Father” would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege. The Muslim God is utterly impassive; to ascribe loving feelings to Him would be suspect.
Are Muslims, then, like Jews and Christians, “children of Abraham”? The Abraham whom Islam claims for itself is yet another messenger—and a Muslim. He is not the common father first of Israel and then of Christians who share his faith. Indeed, since the truth, according to the Qur’an, was given totally on the first day and to the first man, it is inconceivable that Abraham could have played the founding role assigned to him by Jews and Christians. Rather, the Ibrahim of the Qur’an takes part in Muslim worship by building the Ka’ba temple and instituting the pilgrimage to Mecca. Far from Muhammad sharing the faith of Abraham, it is Abraham who holds the faith of Muhammad.
[. . .]
Much fun has been made, wrongly, of the Muslim notion of paradise. Admittedly, it is not like the Jewish or Christian notion, which envisions an eternity participating in the life of the divine. In the other-world of Islam, God remains separate and inaccessible, but man finds there forgiveness, peace, “satisfaction.” If biblical religion suggests a road map that originates in a garden, Eden, and finishes in a city, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Qur’an charts a return to the garden. Ancient mythologies are replete with similar images: idealized banquets with flowing cups, beautiful virgins and young men, a climate of heavenly satiety in which all desire is fulfilled.
In concordance with natural religion (and with the Hellenistic substratum on which Islam was built), Muslim religious life offers more than one model of piety. For the truly devout, two ways are open, just as in the Greco-Roman world: philosophy (Arab falsafa, itself heavily impregnated with neo-Platonism) and mysticism. Less rigorous souls, with the help of the law and moderate observance of the “five pillars” of Islam, can adhere to a mild but perfectly sufficient religious regimen. This is surely a great advantage over the two biblical religions, which expect of believers a greater scrupulousness and a deeper introspection; it is also, once more, reminiscent of ancient paganism, whose rites were designed to ornament and to enhance the individual’s natural, spontaneous sense of the divine.
From this perspective, two facts about Islam that always astonished medieval Christians seem not so astonishing after all: the difficulty of converting Muslims, and the stubborn attachment to their faith of even the most superficially observant. From the Muslim point of view, it was absurd to become a Christian, because Christianity was a religion of the past whose best parts had been included in and superseded by Islam. Even more basically, Christianity was anti-natural: just as Manuel’s Muslim debater insisted, its moral requirements exceeded human capacities, and its central mysteries defied reason.
[. . .]
Of all the contemporary expressions hinting at a consanguinity between the Qur’an and the Bible, the falsest may be “religions of the Book.” This phrase is itself of Islamic origin, but it has nothing to do with what it is widely and misleadingly supposed to suggest. It refers, rather, to a special legal category, “people of the Book,” that provided an exception for Christians and Jews to the general rule decreeing death or slavery for those who refused to convert to Islam. Instead, these groups (as well as two other peoples in possession of a scripture, namely Sabians and Zoroastrians) were allowed to retain their property and to continue to reside in Muslim lands with the second-class status of dhimmi.
That such expressions can be so lightly employed is a sign that elements of the Christian world are no longer capable of distinguishing clearly between their own religion and Islam. Are we returning to the times of John of Damascus, when it was possible to entertain the deluded thought that Islam might itself be a form of Christianity? It is not inconceivable. History records more than one instance of a Christian church unconsciously drifting toward Islam when it does not know any longer what it believes in, or why. This was precisely the fate of the Monophysites in Egypt, the Nestorians in Syria, the Donatists in North Africa, the Arians in Spain.
Islam is not some primitive, simplistic, unworked-out religion. It is neither a “religion of camel drivers” nor a religion of soft and malleable borders. To the contrary, it is an extremely strong religion, with a specific and highly crystallized conception of the relation between man and God. That conception is no less coherent than the Jewish and Christian conceptions; but it is quite opposed to them. Although some Christians may imagine that, because Muslims worship the common God of Israel, Islam and Christianity are closer than either is to paganism, this is not the case. In fact, Christianity and Islam are paradoxically but radically separated by the same God.
It follows that the effort to engage in “dialogue” with Muslims has been set on a mistaken course. The early Church fathers deemed the works of Virgil and Plato a preparatio evangelica—preparation for the Gospel, for the truth of Christianity. The Qur’an is neither a preparation for biblical religion nor a retroactive endorsement of it. In approaching Muslims, self-respecting Christians and others would do better to rely on what remains within Islam of natural religion—and of religious virtue—and to take into account the common humanity that Muslims share with all people everywhere.
More than one. Here is one. And as old Chisholm used to say, you are not philosophizing unless you have a puzzle. So try on this aporetic triad for size:
1. Purely fictional objects do not exist.
2. There are true sentences about purely fictional objects, e.g., 'Sherlock Holmes is a detective' and 'Sherlock Holmes is purely fictional.'
3. If a sentence of the form Fa is true, then there exists an x such that 'a' refers to x.
The triad is logically inconsistent: any two limbs entail the negation of the remaining one. So the limbs cannot all be true despite the considerable plausibility of each. So one of the propositions must be rejected. But the first is nonnegotiable since it is true by definition. The leaves two options: reject (2) or reject (3).
I want to avoid truck with Meinong if at all possible. So I should like to adhere to (3). There are no true singular sentences about what does not exist.
Suppose we reject (2). One way to do this is by supplying a paraphrase in which the apparent reference to the nonexistent is replaced by real reference to the existent. For example, the apparent reference to Sherlock, who does not exist, is replaced by real reference to a story in which he figures, a story that, of course, exists. The elliptical approach is one way of implementing this paraphrastic strategy. Accordingly,
4. Sherlock Holmes is a detective
5. Sherlock Holmes is fictional
are elliptical for, respectively,
6. In the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is a detective
7. In the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is fictional.
But note that while (5) is plainly true, (7) is plainly false. The stroies represent the detective as a real individual, not a fictional individual! So (7) cannot be taken as elliptical for (5) This is a serious problem for the 'story operator' approach. Or consider the true
8. Sherlock Holmes does not exist.
(8) is surely not short for the false
9. In the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes does not exist.
The point can be made with other 'extranuclear' predicates such as 'merely possible' and 'mythological.' If I say that Pegasus is mythological, I don't mean that, according to legend, Pegasus is mythological.
I'll end with a different challenge to the story operator approach. Consider
10. Pinocchio was less of a liar than Barack Obama.
Whether you consider (1) true or false, it is certainly not elliptical for
11. In Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883), Pinocchio was less of a liar than Barack Obama.
To put it vaguely, one problem with the story operator approach is that it traps fictional characters within particular stories, songs, legends, tales, etc. so that (i) it becomes difficult to understand how they can show up in different different stories, songs, etc. as they obviously do in the cases of Faust and Pinocchio, and (ii) it becomes difficult to understand how they can show up in comparisons with nonfictional individuals.
Is there a tenable solution to my triad or is it a genuine aporia?
Are the Christian and Muslim Gods the same? Why not settle this in short order with a nice, crisp, Indiscernibility argument? To wit,
a. If x = y, then x, y share all intrinsic properties. (A version of the Indiscernibility of Identicals) b. The God of the Christians and that of the Muslims do not share all intrinsic properties: the former is triune while the latter is not. Therefore c. The God of the Christians is not identical to that of the Muslims.
Not so fast!
With no breach of formal-logical propriety one could just as easily run the argument in reverse, arguing from the negation of (c) to the negation of (b). They are the same God, so they do share all intrinsic properties!
But then what about triunity? One could claim that triunity is not an intrinsic property. A Muslim might claim that triunity is a relational property, a property that involves a relation to the false beliefs of Christians. In other words, triunity is the relational property of being believed falsely by Christians to be a Trinity.
Clearly, a relational property of this sort cannot be used to show numerical diversity. Otherwise, one could 'show' that the morning and evening 'stars' are not the same because Shlomo of Brooklyn believes of one that it is a planet but of the other than it is a star.
Now consider a 'mind' argument.
a. If x = y, then x, y share all intrinsic properties. (A version of the Indiscernibility of Identicals) b*. This occurrent thinking of Venus and its associated brain state do not share all intrinsic properties: my mental state is intentional (object-directed) whereas my brain state is not. Therefore c*. This occurrent thinking of Venus is not identical to its associated brain state.
Not so fast! A resolute token-token mind-brain identity theorist will run the argument in reverse, arguing from the negation of (c*) to the negation of (b*).
But then what about intentionality? The materialist could claim that intentionality is not an intrinsic property, but a relational one. Taking a page from Daniel Dennett, he might argue that intentionality is a matter of ascription: nothing is intrinsically intentional. We ascribe intentionality to what, in itself, is non-intentional. So in reality all there is is the brain state. The intentionality is our addition.
Now Dennett's ascriptivist theory of intentionality strikes me as absurd: it is either viciously infinitely regressive, or else viciously circular. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the infinite regress is benign. Can I show that it is not without begging the question?
Question for the distinguished MavPhil commentariat: Are there good grounds here for solubility-skepticism when it comes to philosophical problems?
Ildefonso Fraga Ozuna is better known as Sunny Ozuna of Sunny and the Sunglows fame. Their big hit was Talk to Me that made the #11 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in October, 1963. It is a cover of Little Willie John's effort of the same name from 1958.
The Sunglows became the Sunliners and came out with Just a Dream.
Baldemar Garza Huerta, also a Tejano, is better known as Freddy Fender.
I put the following question to Francis Beckwith via e-mail:
Thomas Aquinas and Spinoza both hold that there is exactly one God. Would you say that when they use Deus they succeed in referring to one and the same God, but just have contradictory beliefs about this one and the same God? When I put this question to Dale Tuggy in his podcast discussion with me, he bit the bullet and said Yes to my great surprise.
Professor Beckwith responded:
. . . I am accepting what each faith tradition (at least in its orthodox formulations) believes about God: he is the self-existent subsistent source of all that receives its being from another. Does that include Spinoza’s God? Yes, with a caveat. He has the right God but the wrong universe. He gets the self-existent subsistent source right, but he gets that which receive its being from another wrong. It’s the univocal predication of the theistic personalists--God and nature are of the same order of being--except in reverse. This is why St. Thomas is the bomb. :-)
Before I reply to Beckwith, let us make sure we understand how the Spinozistic conception of God differs from, while partially overlapping with, the traditional conception we find in Augustine, Aquinas, et al. Steven Nadler in SEP writes,
According to the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of divinity, God is a transcendent creator, a being who causes a world distinct from himself to come into being by creating it out of nothing. God produces that world by a spontaneous act of free will, and could just as easily have not created anything outside himself. By contrast, Spinoza's God is the cause of all things because all things follow causally and necessarily from the divine nature. Or, as he puts it, from God's infinite power or nature “all things have necessarily flowed, or always followed, by the same necessity and in the same way as from the nature of a triangle it follows, from eternity and to eternity, that its three angles are equal to two right angles” (Ip17s1). The existence of the world is, thus, mathematically necessary. It is impossible that God should exist but not the world. This does not mean that God does not cause the world to come into being freely, since nothing outside of God constrains him to bring it into existence. But Spinoza does deny that God creates the world by some arbitrary and undetermined act of free will. God could not have done otherwise. There are no possible alternatives to the actual world, and absolutely no contingency or spontaneity within that world. Everything is absolutely and necessarily determined.
The two conceptions overlap in that for both the traditionalist and the Spinozist, there is exactly one God who is the necessarily existent, uncreated, and the ground of the existence of everything distinct from itself. But there are important differences. For Spinoza, God is immanent, not transcendent; not libertarianly free; not capable of existing on his own apart from nature. There are other differences as well.
Beckwith's response implies that the orthodox Thomist and the orthodox Spinozist refer to the same God, but that the Spinozist harbors some false beliefs about God, among them, that God is not a libertarianly free agent who could have created some other world or no world at all. On the traditional conception, God does things for reasons or purposes while for Spinoza, "All talk of God's purposes, intentions, goals, preferences or aims is just an anthropomorphizing fiction." (Nadler)
As I see it, there is no one God that both the Thomist and the Spinozist succeed in referring to. If the God of Aquinas exists, then the God of Spinoza does not exist. And contrapositively: if the God of Spinoza does exist, then the God of Aquinas does not. This strikes me as evident even if we don't bring in the point that for Aquinas God is ipsum esse subsistens. If we do bring it in it is even more evident.
From my point of view, Beckwith makes the following mistake. He apparently thinks that the overlap of the Thomistic and the Spinozistic God concepts suffices to show that in reality there is exactly one God to which both Thomists and Spinozists refer. It does not.
Suppose the common concept is instantiated. Then it is instantiated by something that exists. But existence entails completeness:
EX --> COMP: Necessarily, for any existent x, and for any non-intentional property P, either x instantiates P or x instantiates the complement of P.
What the principle states is that every real item, everything that exists, satisfies the property version of the Law of Excluded Middle. Nothing in reality is incomplete. So if the common God concept is instantiated, then it is instantiated by something that is either libertarianly free or not libertarianly free. A concept of God can abstract from this alternative. But God in reality must be one or the other. Since successful reference is reference to what exists, Thomist and Spinozist cannot be referring to one and the same God.
Objection. "Why not? if Thomism is true, they are both referring to the Thomist God, and if Spinozism is true, they are both referring to the Spinozist God."
Reply. There are two conditions on successful reference. First, the referent must exist. Second, the referent must satisfy the understanding of the one who is referring. As I said in an earlier post, successful reference requires the cooperation of mind and world. The second condition is not satisfied for the Spinozist if Thomism is true. The Spinozist intends to refer to a being that is not libertarianly free. His reference cannot be called successful if, willy-nilly, he happens to get hold of the Thomist God.
Shooting analogy. A sniper has a Muslim man in his sights, a man whom the sniper believes is a jihadi he must kill. Next to the man is a Muslim woman whom the sniper believes is not a jihadi and whom he endeavors not to harm. Unbeknownst to the sniper, it is the woman who is the jihadi and not the man. The sniper, aiming at the man, gets off his shot, but misses him while hitting the woman and killing her. Question: has the sniper made a successful shot? No doubt he hit and destroyed a jihadi. That's the good news. The bad news is that he missed the target he was aiming at. He failed to hit the target he intended to hit.
So I say the sniper failed to get off a successful shot. He just happened to hit a jihadi. He satisfied only one of the conditions of a successful shot. You must not only hit a target; you must hit the right target. Suppose I score a bull's eye at the shooting range, but the bull's eye belongs to the target of the shooter to my right. Did I get off a successful shot? Of course not: I failed to hit what I was aiming at.
Same with successful reference: You must not only hit something; you must hit the right thing. Now what makes a thing the right thing is the intention of the one who refers. When a jihadi screams, Allahu akbar! he intends to refer to the voluntaristic, radically unitarian, God of Islam, not the triune God. If he happens to latch on to the triune God, then he has failed in his reference. He has failed just as surely as if there is no God to refer to.
Traditional Theism and Reductive Pantheism: Same God?
Suppose we define a reductive pantheist as one who identifies God with the natural world -- the space-time system and its contents -- where this identification is taken as a reduction of God to nature, and thus as a naturalization of God, as opposed to a divinization of nature. In short, for the reductive pantheist, God reduces to the physical universe. God just is the physical universe. (I take no position on whether Spinoza is a reductive pantheist; I suspect he is not, but this is a question for the Spinoza scholars.)
Now do the traditional theist and the reductive pantheist believe in, worship, and refer to the same God, except that one or the other has false beliefs about this same God? The traditional theist holds that God is not identical to the physical universe, while the reductive pantheist holds that God is identical to the physical universe. Does it make sense to say that one of them has a false belief about the same God that the other has a true belief about?
This makes no sense. To maintain that God just is the physical universe is tantamount to a denial of the existence of God. Either that, or 'God' is being used in some idiosyncratic way.
What we should say in this case is that the respective senses of of 'God' are so different that they rule out sameness of referent.
Someone who worships the physical universe is not worshiping God under a false description; he is not worshiping God at all. He is worshiping an idol.
Now Spinoza, as I read him, is not a reductive pantheist. But if you can see why the reductive pantheist does not worship the same God as the traditional theist, then perhaps you will be able to appreciate why it is reasonable to hold the same of the Spinozist.
And if I can get you to appreciate that, then perhaps I can get you to appreciate that it is scarcely obvious that Christian and Muslim worship the same God.
Francis Beckwith mentions the Kalam Cosmological Argument in his latest The Catholic Thing article (7 January 2106):
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
Suppose that a Muslim and Christian come to believe that God exists on the basis of this Kalam argument and such ancillary philosophical arguments and considerations as are necessary to establish that the cause of the universe is uncreated, transcendent of the universe, unchanging, etc. The result is a conception of God achieved by reason without the aid of divine revelation. It is a conception common to the normative Muslim and the normative Christian. Crucial differences emerge when the core conception is fleshed out in competing ways by the competing (putative) revelations. But if we stick with the core philosophical conception, then all should agree that there is important overlap as between the Christian and Muslim God conceptions. The overlap is achieved by abstraction from the differences.
So far so good.
Beckwith then asks whether the Muslim and the Christian "believe in the same God" and he concludes that they do.
Permit me a quibble. 'Believe in' connotes 'trust in, have faith in, rely upon the utterances of,' and so on. I believe in my wife: I trust her, I am convinced of her fidelity. That goes well beyond believing that she exists. If I believe in a person, it follows that I believe that the person exists. But if I believe that a person exists, it does not follow that I believe in the person. Professor Beckwith is of course aware of this distinction.
At best, then, what the Christian and the Muslim are brought to by the Kalam argument and supplementary considerations is not belief in God, but belief that God exists. To be even more precise, the Kalam argument, at best, brings us to the belief that there exists a unique, transcendent, uncreated (etc.) cause of the beginning of the universe. In other words, both Christian and Muslim are brought to the belief and perhaps even the knowledge that a certain definite description is satisfied. The properties mentioned in this description are what constitute the shared philosophical understanding of 'God' by the Muslim and the Christian. At best, philosophy brings us to knowledge of God by description, not a knowledge by acquaintance. The common description is usefully thought of as a 'job description' inasmuch as God in brought in to do a certain explanatory job, that of explaining the beginning of the universe. As my teacher J. N. Findlay once said, "God has his uses."
But note that this common Christian-Muslim description leaves undetermined many properties an existent God must possess. (And it must be so given the finitude of our discursive, ectypal, intellects.) But in reality, outside the mind and outside language, God, like everything else, is completely determinate, or complete, for short. I am assuming the following existence entails completeness principle of general metaphysics (metaphysica generalis).
EX -->COMP: Necessarily, for any existent x, and for any non-intentional property P, either x instantiates P or x instantiates the complement of P.
What the principle states is that every real item, everything that exists, satisfies the property version of the Law of Excluded Middle. It rules out of reality incomplete objects. For example, God in reality is either triune or non-triune. He cannot be neither, any more than I can be neither a blogger nor not a blogger. The definite description(s) by means of which we have knowledge by description of God, however, are NECESSARILY (due to the finitude of our intellects) such that there are properties of God in reality that these descriptions do not mention. This is of course true of knowledge by description of everything. Everything is such that no description manageable by a finite mind makes mention of all of the thing's properties, intrinsic and relational.
Now suppose that Christianity is true and that God in reality is triune. Then the above common definite description is satisfied. The common Muslim-Christian conception is instantiated -- but it is instantiated by the Christian God which of course must exist to instantiate it.
The Christian and the Muslim both believe that God (understood as the unique uncreated creator of the universe) exists. That is: they believe that the common conception of God is instantiated, that the common definite description is satisfied. They furthermore believe that the common conception is uniquely instantiated and that the common description is uniquely satisfied. But they differ as to whether the instantiator/satisfier is the triune God or the non-triune God.
So we can answer our question as follows. The question, recall, is: Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?
Muslims and Christians believe in the same God, as Beckwith claims, in the following precise sense: they believe that the same God exists, which is to say: they believe that the common philosophical God concept is uniquely instantiated, instantiated by exactly one being. Call this the anemic sense of believing in the same God.
But this is consistent with saying that Muslim and Christian do not believe in the same God in the following precise sense: they don't believe that the wholly determinate being in reality that instantiates the common philosophical God concept is the triune God who sent his only begotten Son, etc. Call this the robust sense of believing in the same God.
Now we robustos will naturally go with the robust sense. So, to give a plain answer: Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. If Christianity is true, the Muslim God simply does not exist, and Muslims believe in an idol.
The mistake that some are making here is to suppose that the shared Muslim-Christian philosophical understanding enscapsulated in the common concept suffices to show that in reality one and the same God is believed in, and successfully referred to, and non-idolatrously worshipped by both Muslims and Christians. Not so!
The real (extramental, extralinguistic) existence of God cannot be identified with or reduced to the being instantiated of a concept that includes only some of the divine determinations (properties). 'Is instantiated' is a second-level predicate, but God exists in the first-level way. Equivalently, God is not identical to an instance of one of our concepts. God is transcendent of all our concepts. So if we know by revelation that God is a Trinity, then we know that the Muslim God, the non-triune God, does not exist.
"Popular exams in UK to be rescheduled to avoid Ramadan." The UK commits cultural suicide. Not all at once, but little by little, bit by bit, concession by concession. A culture is doomed when it no longer has the will to defend itself. (HT: London Karl)
In the West, Muslims are accommodated. In Muslim lands, Christians are persecuted and suppressed even unto beheading and crucifixion. And Barack Hussein Obama worries about global warming and the National Rifle Association? By the way, his presidency is a clear indicator of our decline: that a feckless fool, a know-nothing, could be elected and then re-elected. We may just be getting what we deserve. A foolish folk, fiscally irresponsible, addicted to panem et circenses, gets a POMO idiot who works to increase the dependency of the people on government while violating their liberties and undermining the rule of law.
Meanwhile, conservative inaction gives traction to the likes of Donald Trump.
. . . you said, "I'm not a magician." ISIS militants behead two magicians. And Obama the feckless fiddles while the world burns.
In other news, 1000 Muslim youths went on a New Year's Eve rape rampage in Cologne against women 80 of whom reported rapes and muggings. But the BBC doesn't call the assailants Muslims. This news agency should rename itself the PCBBC.
So far, Ed Feser's is perhaps the best of the Internet discussions of this hot-button question, a question recently re-ignited by the Wheaton dust-up, to mix some metaphors. Herewith, some notes on Feser's long entry. I am not nearly as philosophically self-confident as Ed or Lydia McGrew, so I will mainly just be trying to understand the issue for my own edification. But I am sure of one thing: the question is difficult and has no easy solution. If you think it does, then I humbly suggest you are not thinking very hard, indeed, you are hardly thinking.
1. Feser rightly points out that a difference in (Fregean) sense does not entail a difference in (Fregean) reference. So the difference in sense as between 'God of the Christians' and 'God of the Muslims' does not entail that these expressions differ in reference. Quite so. But I would add that on a descriptivist semantics reference is routed through, and determined by, sense: an expression picks out its object in virtue of the latter's unique satisfaction of an identifying description associated with the referring expression, a description that unpacks the expression's sense. If we think of reference in this way, then 'God' refers to whichever entity, if any, that satisfies the definite description encapsulated in 'God' as this term is used in a given linguistic community. So while difference in sense does not by itself entail difference in reference, difference in sense is consistent with difference in reference, so that in a particular case it may be that the difference in sense is sufficiently great to entail a difference in reference. Suppose that in one linguistic community a person understands by 'God' the unique contingent being who created the universe but was himself created, while in another a person understands by 'God' the unique necessary uncreated being who created the universe. In this case I think it is clear that the difference in sense entails a difference in reference. Both uses of 'God' may fail of reference, or one might succeed. But they cannot both succeed. For nothing can be both necessary and contingent.
From what has been said so far, 'God' (used by a Christian) and 'Allah' (used by a Muslim) may have the same reference or may have a different reference. The issue cannot be decided by merely pointing out that a difference in sense does not entail a difference in reference.
2. Feser makes a point about beliefs that is surely correct. You and I can have conflicting beliefs about a common object of successful reference without prejudice to its being precisely a common object of successful reference. For example, we both see a sharp-dressed man across the room drinking from a Martini glass. Suppose I erroneously believe that he is drinking a Martini while you correctly believe that he is drinking water. That difference in belief is obviously consistent with one and the same man's being our common object of perceptual and linguistic reference. "Similarly, the fact that Muslims have what Christians regard as a number of erroneous beliefs about God does not by itself entail that Muslims and Christians are not referring to the same thing when they use the expression 'God.'" (Emphasis added.)
True, but it could also be that conflicting beliefs make it impossible that there be a common object of successful reference. It will depend on what those beliefs are and whether they are incorporated into the respective senses of 'God' as used by Muslims and Christians. I will also depend on one's theory of reference, whether descriptivist, causal, hybrid, or something else.
It should also be observed that in perceptual cases such as the Martini case there is no question but that we are referentially glomming onto one and the same object. The existence and identity of the sharp-dressed drinker are given to the senses. Since we know by direct sensory acquaintance that it is the same man both of us see, the conflicting beliefs have no tendency to show otherwise. But God is not an object of perception via the outer senses. So one can question how much weight we should assign to the perceptual analogies, and indeed to any analogy that makes mention of a physical thing. At best, these analogies show that, in general, contradictory beliefs about a putatively self-same x are consistent with there being in reality one and the same subject of these beliefs. But they are also consistent with there not being in reality one and the same subject of the contradictory beliefs.
But not only is God not an object of sensory acquaintance, he is also arguably not an object among objects or a being among beings. Suppose God is ipsum esse subsistens as Aquinas held. It will then be serious question whether a theory of reference that caters to ordinary references to intramundane people and things, beings, can be extended to accommodate reference to self-subsistent Being. Not clear! But I raise this hairy issue only to set it aside for the space of this entry. I will assume for now that God is a being among beings. I bring this issue up only to get people to appreciate how difficult and involved this 'same God?' issue is. Do not comment on this paragraph; it is off-topic for present purposes. See here for one of the posts in which I disagree with Dale Tuggy on this issue.
3. Now consider these conflicting beliefs: God is triune; God is not triune. Please note that it would be question-begging to announce that the fact of this dispute entails that the object of the dispute is one and the same. For that is exactly what is at issue. The following would be a question-begging little speech:
Look man, we are disputing whether God is triune or not triune; we are therefore presupposing that there is one and the same thing, God, about whose properties we are disputing! The disagreement entails sameness of object! Same God!
This is question-begging because it may be that the tokens of 'God' in "God is triune; God is not triune" differ in sense so radically that they also differ in reference. In other words, the mere fact that one and the same word-type 'God' is tokened twice does not show that there is one and the same object about whose properties we are disputing.
4. Feser writes,
Even errors concerning God’s Trinitarian nature are not per se sufficient to prevent successful reference. Abraham and Moses were not Trinitarians, but no Christian can deny that they referred to, and worshiped, the same God Christians do.
[. . .]
But shouldn’t a Christian hold that some reference to the Trinity or to the divinity of Jesus is also at least necessary, even if not sufficient, for successful reference to the true God? Doesn’t that follow from the fact that being Trinitarian is, from a Christian point of view, also essential to God? No, that doesn’t follow at all, and any Christian who says otherwise will, if he stops and thinks carefully about it, see that he doesn’t really believe that it follows. Again, Christians don’t deny that Abraham and Moses, or modern Jews, or Arians and other heretics, refer to and worship the same God as orthodox Christians, despite the fact that these people do not affirm the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus.
There is a modal fudge across these two passages that I don't think it is mere pedantry on my part to point out. In the first passage Feser claims in effect that
A. No Christian CAN deny that Abraham and Moses worshiped the same God that Christians do
while in the second Feser claims in effect that
B. No Christian DOES deny that Abraham and Moses worshiped the same God that Christians do.
If we charitably substitute 'hardly any' for 'no' in (B) then we get a statement that I am willing to concede is true. (A), however, strikes me as false. I myself am strongly tempted to deny that Jews and Christians worship the same God -- assuming that the Jewish God is non-triune and explicitly determined to be such by Jews -- and what I am strongly tempted to do strikes me as entirely possible and rationally justifiable. Why can't someone reasonably deny that Jews and Christians worship the same God?
Feser thinks he has cited some incontrovertible fact that decides the issue, the fact being that everyone or almost everyone claims that Jews and Christians worship the same God. I concede the fact. What I don't concede is that it decides the issue. My claim against Feser on the present occasion is not that he is wrong to maintain that (normative) Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, but that he is not obviously right, his confident asseverations in the passages lately quoted notwithstanding. I am saying to Feser what I said to Beckwith and Tuggy: you gentlemen think this issue easily resolved. But it isn't, in large part because its resolution depends on the solution of hitherto unsolved problems in the philosophy of language.
Here are two questions we ought to distinguish:
Q1. Do Christians use 'God' and equivalents with the intention of referring to the same being that Jews refer to or think they are referring to with 'God' and equivalents?
Q2. Do Christians and Jews succeed in refer to the same being?
An affirmative answer to the first question is consistent with a negative answer to the second question. I agree with an affirmative answer to (Q1). But this affirmative answer does not entail an affirmative answer to (Q2). Moreover, it is reasonable to return a negative answer to (Q2). I will now try to explain how it is reasonable to answer (Q2) in the negative.
5. The crux of the matter is the nature of reference. How exactly is successful reference achieved? And what exactly is reference? And how is worship related to reference?
First off,the causal theory of Kripke, Donnellan, et al. is reasonably rejected and I reject it . It is rife with difficulties. (See e.g., John Searle, Intentionality, Cambridge UP, 1983, ch. 9) Connected with this is my subscription to the broadly logical primacy of the intentional over the linguistic. Part of what this means is that words don't refer, people refer using words, and they don't need to use words to refer. All reference, at bottom, is thinking reference or mental reference. Reference at bottom is intentionality. To refer to something, then, whether with words or without words, is to intend it or think of it. This is to be understood as implying that words, phrases, and the like, considered in their physical being as marks on paper or sounds in the air or carvings in stone (etc.) are entirely lacking in any intrinsic referential, representative, semantic, or intentional character. They are not intrinsically object-directed. There is no object-directedness in nature apart from mind. (Though it may be that dispositionality is an analog of it. See here.) This is equivalent to saying that there is no objective reference without mind. A word acquires reference only when it is thoughtfully used.
Reference to particulars in the sense of 'refer' just explained is always and indeed necessarily reference to propertied particulars. This is because reference to a particular 'picks it out' from all else, singles it out, designates it to the exclusion of everything else. Particulars taken in abstraction from their properties cannot be singled out to the exclusion of all else. To think of a thing or person is to think of it as an instance of certain properties and indeed in such a way as to distinguish it from all else. So, to think of, and thus refer to, a particular is to think of it as an instance of a set of properties that jointly individuate it.
To refer to God, then, is to think of God as an instance of certain properties. I cannot think of God directly as just a particular, and then as instantiating certain properties. This ought to be quite clear from the fact that in this life our (natural) knowledge of God is not by acquaintance but by description. I don't literally see God when I look upwards at "the starry skies above me" or gaze inward at "the moral law within me" to borrow a couple of signature phrases from Immanuel Kant. Our only access to God here below is indirect via his properties, as an instance of those properties. Here below we approach God from the side of his properties as we understand them. The existence and identity of my table is known directly by acquaintance. Not so in the case of God. The existence of God is not given to sense perception but has to be understood as the being-instantiated of certain properties. The God I know by description is God qua uniquely satisfying my understanding of 'God.'
Someone could object: What about mystical experience? Is it not possible in this life to enjoy mystical knowledge by acquaintance of God? This is a very large, and I think separate topic. To the extent that mystical experience leads to mystical union it tends to collapse the I-Thou and man-God duality that is part of the framework of worship as we are discussing it in this context. See my Buber on Buddhism and Other Forms of Mysticism. It also tends to explode the framework in which questions about reference are posed . I mean the framework in which: here is a minded organism with linguistic capacity who thoughtfully utters certain words and phrases while out there are various things to which the organism is trying to refer and often succeeding.
There is also the question of the veridicality of mystical experience. How do I know that an experience of mine is revelatory of something real? How do I know that successive experiences of mine are revelatory of the same thing? How do I know that the mystical experiences of different people are veridically of the same thing? So I suggest we bracket the question of mystical experience.
Any natural knowledge of God in this life, then, is by description. Reference to God is indirect and via the understanding of 'God' within a given religion. Now the orthodox Christian understanding of 'God' is that God sent his only begotten Son, begotten not made, into our predicament to teach us and show us the Way (via, veritas, vita) and to suffer and die for our sins. Together with this contingent Sending goes the triunity of God as the necessary condition of its possibility. This is part of what an orthodox Christian means by 'God,' although I reckon few Christians would put it the way I just did. It is part of the sense of 'God' for an orthodox Christian. But this is not part of the sense of 'God' for the orthodox Muslim who denies the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the soteriology connected with both.
So do Christians and Muslims succeed in referring to the same being? No. Successful reference on a descriptivist semantics requires the cooperation of Mind and World. Successful reference, whether with words or without words, requires that there exist outside the mind something that satisfies the conditions set within the mind. (Remember: it is not primarily words that refer, but minds via words and mental states.) Now suppose there exists exactly one God and that that God is a Trinity. Then the Christian's understanding of 'God' will be satisfied, and his reference to God will be successful. But the Muslim's reference will fail. The reason for this is that there is nothing outside the mind that satisfies his characteristic understanding of 'God.'
Of course, the Muslim could put it the other way around. Either way, my point goes through: Muslim and Christian cannot be referring to the one and the same God.
You say the Christian and Muslim understandings of 'God' overlap? You are right! But this overlap is but an abstraction insufficient to determine an identifying reference to a concrete, wholly determinate, particular. In reality, God is completely determinate. As such, he cannot be neither triune nor not triune, neither incarnated nor not incarnated, etc. in the way the overlapping conception is. So if the triune God exists, then the non-triune God does not exist. Of course, we can say that the Christian and the Muslim are 'driving in the same direction.' Heading West on Interstate 10, I am driving toward the greater Los Angeles area, and thus I am driving toward both Watts and Laguna Niguel. But there is a big difference, and perhaps one pertaining unto my 'salvation,' whether I arrive in Watts or in Laguna Niguel. What's more, I cannot terminate my drive in some indeterminate location. The successful termination of my peregrination must occur at some wholly definite place. So too with successful reference to a concrete particular: it must terminate with a completely determinate referent.
Here is another related objection. "If the Christian God exists, then both Christian and Muslim succeed in referring to the same God -- it is just that this same God is the Christian God, i.e., God as understood in the characteristically Christian way. The existence of the Christian God suffices to satisfy the common Christian-Muslim underdstanding of 'God.'"
In reply I repeat that both mind and world must cooperate for successful reference on a descriptivist semantics. So it is not enough that God exists and that there be exactly one God. Nor is it enough that the one God satisfy the common Christian-Muslim conception; for the Muslim God to be an object of successful reference it must both exist and satisfy the characteristic Muslim understanding of 'God.'
My thesis is a rather modest one. To repeat what I said above:
My claim against Feser on the present occasion is not that he is wrong to maintain that (normative) Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, but that he is not obviously right, his confident asseverations in the passages lately quoted notwithstanding. I am saying to Feser what I said to Beckwith and Tuggy: you gentlemen think this issue easily resolved. But it isn't, in large part because its resolution depends on the solution of hitherto unsolved problems in the philosophy of language.
I have been arguing that whether 'God' and equivalents as used by Jews, Christians, and Muslims refer to the same being depends on one's philosophy of language. In particular, I suggested that only on a causal theory of names could one maintain that their respective references are to the same entity. The causal theory of names, however, strikes me as not very plausible. Here is one consideration among several.
The causal theory of names of Saul Kripke et al. requires that there be an initial baptism of the target of reference, a baptism at which the name is first introduced. This can come about by ostension: Pointing to a newly acquired kitten, I bestow upon it the moniker, 'Mungojerrie.' Or it can come about by the use of a reference-fixing definite description: Let 'Neptune' denote the celestial object responsible for the perturbation of the orbit of Uranus. In the second case, it may be that the object whose name is being introduced is not itself present at the baptismal ceremony. What is present, or observable, are certain effects of the object hypothesized. (See Saul Kripke Naming and Necessity, Harvard 1980 p. 79, n. 33 and p. 96, n. 42.)
As I understand it, a necessary condition for successful reference on the causal theory is that a speaker's use of a name be causally connected (perhaps indirectly) with the object referred to. We can refer to objects only if we stand in some causal relation to them (direct or indirect). So my use of 'God' refers to God not because there is something that satisfies the definite description or disjunction of definite descriptions that unpack the sense of 'God' as used by me and others in my linguistic community, but because my use of 'God' can be traced back though a long causal chain to an initial baptism, as it were, of God by, say, Abraham.
If this is what the causal theory (or at least the Kripkean version thereof) requires, then thetheory rules out all reference to abstracta: Fregean propositions, numbers, sets, etc. But it also rules out reference to future events.
Suppose meteorologists predict a hurricane that has the power to wipe out New Orleans a second time. Conservatives to a man and a woman, they introduce the name 'Hillary' for this horrendous event, and they introduce it via some appropriately complex definite description. (They can't point to it since it doesn't yet exist.) The meteorologists continue with their work using 'Hillary' for the event in question. Since the event lies in the future, there is no question of its causing directly or indirectly any use of the name 'Hillary.' Nor is there any question of the name's being introduced on the basis of effects of the event.
What we seem to have here is a legitimate use of a proper name that cannot be accounted for by the causal theory. For the causal theory rules out reference to a thing or event to which one does not stand in a causal relation. This suggests that there is something very wrong with the theory. (See John Searle, Intentionality, Cambridge 1983, p. 241.)
Admittedly, the above Searle-y objection is not compelling, relying as it does on controversial assumptions about the nature of time. A presentist will probably not be impressed by it. If the present alone exists, then future events do not, in which case there can be no reference to them, assuming that one can successfully refer only to what exists.
Question for Kripkeans: Isn't "initial baptism" pleonastic? Or does Kripke allow for subsequent baptisms of a thing?
Each of the following three propositions strikes me as very reasonably maintained. But they cannot all be true.
A. Worship Entails Reference: If S worships x, then S refers to x. B. Reference Entails Existence: If S refers to x, then x exists. C. Worship Does Not Entail Existence: It is not the case that if S worships x, then x exists.
It is easy to see that the triad is inconsistent. The conjunction of any two limbs entails the negation of the remaining one. For example, (A) and (B), taken in conjunction, entail the negation of (C).
What makes the triad a very interesting philosophical problem, however, is the fact that each of the constituent propositions issues a very strong claim on our acceptance. I am inclined to say that each is true. But of course they cannot all be true if they are logically inconsistent, which they obviously are.
Why think that each limb is true?
Ad (A): While there is much more to worship than reference, and while reference to a god or God can take place without worship, it is surely the case that whatever one worships one refers to, whether publicly or privately, whether in overt speech or in wordless thought.
Ad (B): Unless we make a move into Meinong's jungle, it would seem that reference is reference to what exists. There are different ways for reference to fail, but one way is if the referent does not exist. Suppose I think Scollay Square still exists. Trying to say something true, I say, 'Scollay Square is in Boston.' Well, I fail to say something true because of the failure of reference of 'Scollay Square.' My sentence is either false or lacks a truth-value. Now if one way for a reference to fail is when the referent does not exist, then reference entails existence.
Here is a second consideration. Philosophers often speak of reference as a word-world relation. Better: it is a relation between a word of phrase thoughtfully deployed by a person and something that exists extralinguistically. But surely if a genuine relation R holds, then each of R's relata exists. In the dyadic case, if x stands in R to y, then both x and y exist. A weaker principle is that of existence-symmetry: if x stands in R to y, then either both relata exist or neither exists. Both principles rule out the situation in which one relatum of the reference relation exists and the other doesn't.
So if reference is a genuine relation, and a person uses a word or phrase to refer to something, then the thing in question, the referent, exists. So again it seems that (B) is true and that reference entails existence. If the referent does not exist, then the reference relation does not hold in this case and there is no reference in this case. No referent, no reference. If reference, then referent.
Ad (C): Some say that the Christian God and the Muslim God are the same. But no one this side of the lunatic asylum says that all gods are the same. So at least one of these gods does not exist. But presumably all gods have been worshipped by someone; ergo, being worshipped does not entail existence.
So how do we solve this aporetic bad boy? We have three very plausible propositions that cannot all be true. So it seems we must reject one of them. But which one?
(A) is above reproach. Surely one cannot worship anything without referring to it. And I should think that (C) is obviously true. The idolater worships a false god, something that does not exist. As Peter Geach points out, the idolater does not worship a hunk of gold, say, but a hunk of gold as God, or God as a hunk of gold. But then he worships something that does not exist and indeed cannot exist. The only hope for solving the triad is by rejecting (B). For (B) does not share in the obviousness of (A) and (C). (B) is very plausible but not as plausible as the other two limbs.
London Ed will presumably endorse (B)-rejection as the solution since he is already on record as saying that one can successfully refer to purely fictional (and thus nonexistent) individuals and that one also be confident that it is numerically the same fictional individual to which different people are referring in different ways. Thus if London Ed brings up in conversation the fictional detective who lives on Baker Street, has an assistant named 'Watson,' etc. , then I know he is referring to Sherlock Holmes. And referring successfully. We are talking about one and the same individual. Successful reference thus seems not to require the existence of the referent.
But notice. If there is successful reference to nonexistent individuals, then it would seem that reference is an intentional state just like worshiping is. Or to put the point in formal mode: it would seem that 'refers' is an intentional verb just like 'worship' is. What one worships may or may not exist without prejudice to one's being in a state of worship. On (B)-rejection, what one refers to may or may not exist without prejudice to one's being in the state of referring.
By the way, it is not words that refer, but people using words. Of course, one can say that 'cat' in English refers to furry, four-legged mammals, but that is elliptical for saying that competent English speakers who are using 'cat' in a standard, non-metaphorical, way refer by the use of this word to furry, four-legged mammals. Linguistic reference is grounded in and parasitic upon thinking reference, intentional reference. And not the other way around. Not everyone agrees, of course. (Chisholm and Sellars famously disagreed about this.) This is yet another bone of contention at the base of the Same God? controversy. And one more reason why it is not easily resolved.
Well, suppose that linguistic reference is like mental reference (intentionality) in this respect: just as the intentio is what it is whether or not the intentum exists, the reference is what it is whether or not the referent exists. This makes sense and it solves the above aporetic triad. We simply reject (B).
Now where does my solution to the above triad leave us with respect to the question, Does the Christian and the Muslim worship the same God? My solution implies that they do not worship the same God. For it implies that reference to an individual or particular is not direct but mediated by properties. Let's consider private, unverbalized worship in the form of discursive prayer. Suppose I pray the Jesus Prayer, or some such prayer as 'Lord, grant me light in my moral and intellectual darkness.' Such prayer is on the discursive plane. It is not a matter of infused contemplation or any state of mystical intuition or mystical union. On the discursive plane I have no knowledge of God by acquaintance, and certainly not by sensory acquaintance. My knowledge, if knowledge it is, is by description. I refer to God mentally via properties as that which satisfies, uniquely, a certain identifying description. Obviously, I cannot have God before my mind as a pure, unpropertied particular; I can have God before my mind only as 'clothed' in certain properties, only as an instantiation of those properties.
Now if the properties in terms of which I prayerfully think of God include the property of being triune, and the properties in terms of which a Muslim thinks of God include the property of not being triune, then no one thing can be our common mental referent. For in reality outside the mind nothing can be both triune and not triune.
If you object that there is a common God but that the Muslim has false beliefs about it, then I say you are either begging the question or assuming a causal theory of reference. It is certainly true that different people can have contradictory beliefs about one and the same thing. But if you say that this is the case with respect to the Muslim and Christian Gods, then you assume that there is one God about whom there are contradictory beliefs -- and that is precisely to beg the question. This is the very mistake that Beckwith and Tuggy and others make.
If, on the other hand, you are assuming a casual theory of reference, then how will you solve my triad above? Besides, you take on board all the problems of the casual theory. The notion that reference can be explained by causation is a very questionable one, about which I will have more to say later.
What better topic of meditation for New Year's Morn than the 'passage' of time. May the Reaper grant us all another year! "I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think." (Nietzsche)
If presentism is to be a defensible thesis, a 'presentable' one if you will, then it must avoid both the Scylla of tautology and the Charybdis of absurdity. Having survived these hazards, it must not perish of unclarity or inexpressibility.
1. Only what exists exists.
If 'exists' is used in the same way in both occurrences, then (1) is a miserable tautology and not possibly a bone of contention as between presentists and anti-presentists. Note that (1) is a tautology whether 'exists' is present-tensed in both occurrences or temporally unqualified (untensed) in both. To have a substantive thesis, the presentist must distinguish the present-tensed use of 'exist' from some other use and say something along the lines of
P. Only what exists (present tense) exists simpliciter.
This implies that what no longer exists does not exist simpliciter, and that what will exist does not exist simpliciter. It is trivial to say that what no longer exists does not presently exist, but this is not what the presentist is saying: he is is saying that what no longer exists does not exist period (full stop, simpliciter, at all, sans phrase, absolutely, pure and simple, etc.) He is saying that what no longer exists is nothing.
But the presentist must also, in his formulation of his thesis, avoid giving aid and comfort to the absurdity that could be called 'solipsism of the present moment.' (I borrow the phrase from Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, Simon and Schuster 1948, p. 181.) To wit,
SPM. Only what exists (present tense) exists simpliciter; nothing existed and nothing will exist.
The idea behind (SPM) is decidedly counterintuitive but cannot be ruled out by logic alone. To illustrate, consider James Dean who died on September 30th, 1955. Presentist and anti-presentist agree that Dean existed and no longer exists. (Alter the example to Dean's car if you hold to the immortality of the soul.) That is, both presentist and anti-presentist maintain that there actually was this actor, that he was not a mere possibility or a fictional being. The presentist, however, thinks that Dean does not exist at all (does not exist simpliciter) while the anti-presentist maintains that Dean does exist simpliciter, but in the past. In contrast to both,the present-moment solipsist holds that Dean never existed and for this reason does not exist at all. Thus there are three positions on past individuals. The presentist says that they do not exist at all or simpliciter. The anti-presentist says that they do exist simpliciter. The PM-solispist says that they never existed.
Clearly, the presentist must navigate between the Scylla of tautology and the Charybdis of present-moment solipsism. So what is the presentist saying? He seems to be operating with a metaphysical picture according to which there is a Dynamic Now which is the source and locus of a ceaseless annihilation and creation: some things are ever passing out of being and other things are ever coming into being. He is not saying that all that is in being is all there ever was in being or all there ever will be in being. That is the lunatic thesis of the present-moment solipsist.
The presentist can be characterized as an annihilationist-creationist in the following sense. He is annihilationist about the past, creationist about the future. He maintains that an item that becomes past does not lose merely the merely temporal property of presentness, but loses both presentness and existence. And an item that becomes present does not gain merely the merely temporal property of presentness, but gains both presentness and existence. Becoming past is a passing away, an annihilation, and becoming present is a coming into being, a creation out of nothing.
To many, the presentist picture seem intuitively correct, though I would not go so far as Alan Rhoda who, quoting John Bigelow, maintains that presentism is "arguably the commonsense position." I would suggest that common sense, assuming we can agree on some non-tendentious characterization of same, takes no position on arcane metaphysical disputes such as this one. (This is a fascinating metaphilosophical topic that cannot be addressed now. How does the man in the street think about time? Answer: he doesn't think about it, although he is quite adept at telling time, getting to work on time, and using correctly the tenses of his mother tongue.)
So far, so good. But there is still, to me at least, something deeply puzzling about the presentist thesis. Consider the following two tensed sentences about the actor James Dean. 'Dean does not exist.' 'Dean did exist.' Both tensed sentences are unproblematically true, assuming that death is annihilation. (We can avoid this assumption by changing the example to Dean's silver Porsche.) Because both sentences are plainly true, recording as they do Moorean facts, they are plainly logically consistent.
The presentist, however, maintains that what did exist, but no longer exists, does not exist at all. That is the annihilationist half of his characteristic thesis. It is not obviously true in the way the data sentences are obviously true. Indeed, it is not clear, to me at least, what exactly the presentist thesis MEANS. (Evaluation of a proposition as either true or false presupposes a grasp of its sense or meaning.) When the presentist says, in the present using a present-tensed sentence, that
1. Dean does not presently exist at all
he does not intend this to hold only at the present moment, else (1) would collapse into the trivially true, present-tensed, Moorean, 'Dean does not exist.' He intends something more, namely:
2. Dean does not presently exist at any time, past, present, or future.
Now what bothers me is the apparent present reference in (2) to past and future times. How can a present-tensed sentence be used to refer to the past? That's one problem. A second is that (2) implies
3. It is presently the case that there are past times at which Dean does not exist.
But (3) is inconsistent with the presentist thesis according to which (abstract objects aside) only the present time and items at the present time exist.
My underlying question is whether presentism has the resources to express its own thesis. Does it make it between the Scylla of tautology and the Charybdis of PM-solipsism only to founder on the reef of inexpressibility? Just what is the presentist trying to say, and can it be said?
I have long held that time is the hardest of all philosophical nuts to crack. I fear it is above my pay grade, and yours too.
One reason to try to 'make it' is to come to appreciate, by succeeding, that worldly success cannot be a final goal of legitimate human striving. 'Making it' frees one psychologically and allows one to turn one's attention to worthier matters. He who fails is dogged by a sense of failure whereas he who succeeds is in a position to appreciate the ultimate insignificance of both success and failure, not that most of the successful ever do. Their success traps them. Hence the sad spectacle of the old coot, a good flight of stairs away from a major coronary event, scheming and angling for more loot and land when in the end a man needs only -- six feet.
Brand Blanshard, On Philosophical Style (Indiana University Press, 1967), pp. 49-50. Originally appeared in 1954. Emphases added. The most distinguished recent example of imaginative prose in philosophy is certainly George Santayana. Santayana was no man's copy, either in thought or in style. He consistently refused to adopt the prosaic medium in which most of his colleagues were writing. To read him is to be conducted in urbane and almost courtly fashion about the spacious house he occupies, moving noiselessly always on a richly figured carpet of prose. Is it a satisfying experience as one looks back on it? Yes, undoubtedly, if one has been able to surrender to it uncritically. But that, as it happens, is something the philosophical reader is not very likely to do. Philosophy is, in the main, an attempt to establish something by argument, and the reader who reads for philosophy will be impatient to know just what thesis is being urged, and what precisely is the evidence for it. To such a reader Santayana seems to have a divided mind, and his doubleness of intent clogs the intellectual movement. He is, of course, genuinely intent on reaching a philosophic conclusion, but it is as if, on his journey there, he were so much interested also in the flowers that line the wayside that he is perpetually pausing to add one to his buttonhole. The style is not, as philosophic style should be, so transparent a medium that one looks straight through it at the object, forgetting that it is there; it is too much like a window of stained glass which, because of its very richness, diverts attention to itself.
There is no reason why a person should not be a devotee of both truth and beauty; but unless in his writing he is prepared to make one the completely unobtrusive servant of the other, they are sure to get in each other's way. Hence ornament for its own beautiful irrelevant sake must be placed under interdict. Someone has put the matter more compactly: "Style is the feather in the arrow, not the feather in the hat."
It seems to me that far too much Continental philosophy is plagued by the same "divided mind" and "doubleness of intent."
Having just read Peter Geach's "On Worshipping the Right God" (in God and the Soul, Thoemmes Press, 1994, pp. 100-116, orig. publ. 1969) I was pleased to discover that I had arrived by my own reasoning at some of his conclusions. On Christmas Eve I quoted Michael Rea:
Christians and Muslims have very different beliefs about God; but they agree on this much: there is exactly one God. This common point of agreement is logically equivalent to [the] thesis that all Gods are the same God. In other words, everyone who worships a God worships the same God, no matter how different their views about God might be.
Rea's argument is this:
A. There is exactly one God if and only if all Gods are the same God
B. Everyone who worships a God worships the same God.
But as I pointed out, the state of worship/worshipping is an intentional or object-directed state, and like all such states, not such as to entail the existence of the object of the state. One cannot worship without worshipping something, but it does not follow that the object worshipped exists. So (B) is false. Geach makes the same point in 'formal mode':
It may be thought that since there is only one God to worship, a man who worships a God cannot but worship the true God. But this misconceives the logical character of the the verb 'to worship.' In philosophers' jargon, 'to worship' is an intentional verb. (108)
Exactly right. And so, just as I can shoot at an animal that is not there to be shot at, I can worship a God that is not there to be worshipped.
I put the point in my own 'formal mode' way when I said that 'worships' is not a verb of success.
The possibility of worshipping what does not exist is connected with the question whether 'God' is a logically proper name. Geach rightly argues that "'God' is not a proper name but a descriptive term: it is like 'the Prime Minister' rather than 'Mr. Harold Wilson.'" (108) One of his arguments is similar to one I had given, namely, that God is not known by acquaintance in this life. As Geach puts it, ". . . in this life we know God not as an acquaintance we can name, but by description." (109)
God is therefore relevantly disanalogous to the examples Beckwith and Tuggy gave. Those examples were of things known or knowable by sensory acquaintance here below. Suppose Dale and I are seated at one and the same table. I pound on it and assert "This table is solid oak!" Dale replies, "No, it is not: there is particle board where you can't see." Dale thinks that a disagreement about the properties of a putatively self-same x presupposes, and thus entails, that there really is a self-same x whose properties are in dispute. But that is not the case. Disagreement about the properties of a putatively self-same x is merely logically consistent with there really being a self-same x whose properties are in dispute. In the case of the table, of course, we KNOW that the dispute is about one and the same item. This is because the table is an object of sensory acquaintance: its existence and identity are evident. But it can be different in the case of God with whom we are not sensorily acquainted.
Clearly, a Spinozist and a Thomist are not worshipping one and the same God despite the fact that for both Thomists and Spinozists there is exactly one God. One of them is worshipping what does not exist.
And so it is not at all obvious that Jew, Christian, and Muslim are all worshipping the same God. That, I submit, is crystal-clear. And so those who think that the question has an obvious answer are plainly wrong.
But this is not to say that Jew, Christian, and Muslim are NOT worshipping one and the same God. That is much more difficult question.
What is theologically wrong with asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, according to Hawkins’s opponents — and mine? Muslims deny the Trinity and incarnation, and, therefore, the Christian God and Muslim God cannot be the same. But the conclusion doesn’t square. And Christians, though historically not friendly to either Judaism or the Jews, have rightly resisted that line of thinking when it comes to the God of Israel.
The important question is this: Is someone who denies that the Christian and Muslim Gods are the same logically committed to denying that the Christian and Jewish Gods are the same? Volf seems to think so. To the extent that an argument can be attributed to Volf it seems to be this:
A. There are good reasons to deny that the Christian and Muslim Gods are the same if and only if there are good reasons to deny that the Jewish and Christian Gods are the same.
B. There are no good reasons to deny that the Jewish and Christian Gods are the same.
C. There are no good reasons to deny that the Christian and Muslims Gods are the same.
I think one can reasonably reject (A). Volf writes,
For centuries, a great many Orthodox Jews have strenuously objected to those same Christian convictions: Christians are idolaters because they worship a human being, Jesus Christ, and Christians are polytheists because they worship “Father, Son and the Spirit” rather than the one true God of Israel.
It is arguable however that these great many Orthodox Jews have misrepresented the Christian convictions. Christians do not worship a mere human being; they worship a being that is both human and divine. So the charge of idolatry is easily turned aside. And Christians are not polytheists since they explicitly maintain that there is exactly one God, albeit in three divine persons. Trinitarianism is not tri-theism.
A Christian could say this: The God of the ancient Jews and the God of the Christians is the same God; it is just that his attributes were more fully revealed in the Christian revelation. The Christian revelation augments and supersedes the Jewish revelation without contradicting it. Or did Jews before Christianity arose explicitly maintain that God could not be triune? Did they address this question explicitly? And did they explicitly maintain that Incarnation as Christians understand it is impossible? (These are not rhetorical questions; I am really asking!) Suppose the answers are No and No. Then one could argue that the Christian revelation fills in the Jewish revelation without contradicting it and that the two putatively distinct Gods are the same. My knowledge of an object can be enriched over time without prejudice to its remaining numerically one and the same object.
Analogy: the more Dale Tuggy 'reveals' about himself, the fuller my knowledge of him becomes. Time was when I didn't know which state he hails from. At that time he was to my mind indeterminate with respect to the property of being from Texas: he was to my mind neither from Texas nor not from Texas. I simply had no belief about his native state. But now I know he is from Texas. There was no real change in him in this respect; there was a doxastic change in me. My knowledge of the man was enriched due to his 'self-revelation.'
Now why couldn't it be like that with respect to the O.T. God and the N.T. God? We know him better now because we know him through Jesus Christ, but he is numerically the same One as we knew before.
It is different with Islam. It is arguably a Christian heresy that explicitly denies Trinity and Incarnation which (from the Christian point of view) are attributes God has revealed to us. Islam takes a backward step. Arguably, Islam's God does not exist since it is determined explicitly to be non-triune and non-incarnated. The God of the O. T. was not explicitly determined to be non-triune and non-incarnated; so there is no difficulty with the O.T. God being identical to the N. T. God. But what if Jews now claim, or even before the Christ event claimed, that their God is non-triune and non-incarnated? Then their God does not exist. This seems like a reasonable line for a Christian to take. It involves no bigotry whatsoever.
Of course, these issues are exceedingly difficult and one cannot reasonably expect to reach any agreement on them among learned and sincere truth-seekers. I am not being dogmatic above. As before, I am urging caution and rejecting simple-minded solutions. Volf's simple-mindedness and sloppy journalism gets us nowhere. And his accusations of bigotry are deeply offensive and themselves an expression of politically correct bigotry.
The precise, explicitly argued, analytic style of exposition with numbered premises and conclusions promotes the meticulous scrutiny of the ideas under discussion. That is why I sometimes write this way. I know it offends some. There are creatures of darkness and murk who seem allergic to any intellectual hygiene. These types are often found on the other side of the Continental Divide.
"How dare you be clear? How dare you ruthlessly exclude all ambiguity thereby making it impossible for me to yammer on and on with no result?"
Ortega y Gasset somewhere wrote that "Clarity is courtesy." But clarity is not only courtesy; it is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of resolving an issue. If it be thought unjustifiably sanguine to speak of resolving philosophical issues, I have a fall-back position: Clarity is necessary for the very formulation of an issue, provided we want to be clear about what we are discussing.
So we should try to be as clear as possible given the constraints we face. (In blogging, one of the constraints is the need to be pithy.) But it doesn't follow that one should avoid, or legislate out of existence, topics or problems that are hard to bring into focus. It would be folly to avoid God, the soul, Mr. Bradley's Absolute, the meaning of life and all the Big Questions just because it is hard to be clear about them. To give up metaphysics for logic on the ground of the former's messiness, makes no sense to me: the good of logic is instrumental, not intrinsic. (See Fred Sommers Abandons Whitehead and Metaphysics for Logic.) We study logic to help us resolve substantive questions. If all you ever do in philosophy is worry about such topics as the logical form of 'Everyone who owns a donkey beats it,' then I say you have not been doing philosophy at all, but something preliminary to it.
We are not here to waste our time on logical bagatelles and scholarly punctilios. We are here to work out our intellectual and spiritual salvation with diligence.
Clarity, then, is a value. But it ceases to be one if it drives us to such extremes as the logical positivist's Verifiability Principle of cognitive significance, or the extreme of a fellow who once said that "If it cannot be said in the language of Principia Mathematica, then it can't be said." My response to that would be: so much the worse for the language of Principia Mathematica.
I have always been an admirer of your philosophical writing style--both in your published works and on your blog. Have you ever blogged about which writers and books have most influenced your philosophical writing style?
Yes, I have some posts on or near this topic. What follows is one from 21 September 2009, slightly revised.
From the mail bag:
I've recently discovered your weblog and have enjoyed combing through its archives these past several days. Your writing is remarkably lucid and straightforward — quite a rarity both in philosophy and on the web these days. I was wondering if perhaps you had any advice to share for a young person, such as myself, on the subject of writing well.
To write well, read well. Read good books, which are often, but not always, old books. If you carefully read, say, William James' Varieties of Religious Experience, you will learn something of the expository potential of the English language from a master of thought and expression. If time is short, study one of his popular essays such as "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life." Here is a characteristic paragraph:
But this world of ours is made on an entirely different pattern, and the casuistic question here is most tragically practical. The actually possible in this world is vastly narrower than all that is demanded; and there is always a pinch between the ideal and the actual which can only be got through by leaving part of the ideal behind. There is hardly a good which we can imagine except as competing for the possession of the same bit of space and time with some other imagined good. Every end of desire that presents itself appears exclusive of some other end of desire. Shall a man drink and smoke, or keep his nerves in condition? — he cannot do both. Shall he follow his fancy for Amelia, or for Henrietta? — both cannot be the choice of his heart. Shall he have the dear old Republican party, or a spirit of unsophistication in public affairs? — he cannot have both, etc. So that the ethical philosopher's demand for the right scale of subordination in ideals is the fruit of an altogether practical need. Some part of the ideal must be butchered, and he needs to know which part. It is a tragic situation, and no mere speculative conundrum, with which he has to deal. (The Will to Believe, Dover 1956, pp. 202-203, emphases in original)
One who can appreciate that this is good writing is well on the way to becoming a good writer. The idea is not so much to imitate as to absorb and store away large swaths of such excellent writing. It is bound to have its effect. Immersion in specimens of good writing is perhaps the only way to learn what good style is. It cannot be reduced to rules and maxims. And even if it could, there would remain the problem of the application of the rules. The application of rules requires good judgment, and one can easily appreciate that there cannot be rules of good judgment. This for the reason that the application of said rules would presuppose the very thing — good judgment — that cannot be reduced to rules. Requiring as it does good judgment, good writing cannot be taught, which is why teaching composition is even worse in point of frustration than teaching philosophy. Trying to get a student to appreciate why a certain formulation is awkward is like trying to get a nerd to understand why pocket-protectors are sartorially substandard.
But what makes James' writing good? It has a property I call muscular elegance. The elegance has to do in good measure with the cadence, which rests in part on punctuation and sentence structure. Note the use of the semi-colon and the dash. These punctuation marks are falling into disuse, but I say we should dig in our heels and resist this decadence especially since it is perpetrated by many of the very same politically correct ignoramuses who are mangling the language in other ways I won't bother to list. There is no necessity that linguistic degeneration continue. We make the culture what it is, and we get the culture or unculture we deserve.
As for the muscularity of James' muscular elegance, it comes though in his vivid examples and his use of words like 'pinch' and 'butchered.' His is a magisterial weaving of the abstract and the concrete, the universal and the particular. Bare of flab, this is writing with pith and punch. And James is no slouch on content, either.
C. S. Lewis somewhere says something to the effect that reading one's prose out loud is a way to improve it. I would add to this Nietzsche's observation that
Good prose is written only face to face with poetry. For it is an uninterrupted, well-mannered war with poetry . . . (Gay Science, Book II, Section 92, tr. Kaufmann)
A well-mannered war, a loving polemic. There is a poetic quality to the James passage quoted above, but the lovely goddess of poetry is given to understand that truth trumps beauty and that she is but a handmaiden to the ultimate dominatrix, Philosophia. Or to coin a Latin phrase, ars ancilla philosophiae.
Finally, a corollary to the point that one must read good books to become a good writer: watch your consumption of media dreck. Avoid bad writing, and when you cannot, imbibe it critically.
Let us meditate this Christmas morning on the sheer audacity of the idea that God would not only enter this world of time and misery, but come into it in the most humble manner possible, inter faeces et urinam nascimur, born between feces and urine, entering between the legs of a poor girl in a stable. Just like one of us, a slob like one of us. The notion is so mind-boggling that one is tempted to credit it for this very reason, for its affront to Reason, and to the natural man, accepting it because it is absurd, or else dismissing it as the height of absurdity. A third possibility is to accept it despite its being absurd, and a fourth is to argue that rational sense can be made of it. The conflict of these approaches, and of the positions within each, only serves to underscore the mind-boggling quality of the notion, a notion that to the eye and mind of faith is FACT.
The Most High freely lowers himself, accepting the indigence and misery of material existence, including a short temporal career that ends with the ultimate worldly failure: execution by the political authorities. And not a civilized Athenian execution by hemlock as was the fate of that other great teacher of humanity, but execution by the worst method the brutal Romans could devise, crucifixion.
In the Incarnation the Word nailed itself to the flesh in anticipation of later being nailed to the wood of the cross to suffer the ultimate fate of everything material and composite: dissolution. Christ dies like each of us will die, utterly, alone, abandoned. But then the mystery: He rises again. Is this the central conundrum of Christianity? He rises, but not as a pure spirit. He rises body and soul.
God is the Word ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God"); the Word becomes flesh; the flesh nailed to wood becomes dead matter and nothing Wordly or Verbal or Logical or Spiritual or Sense Bearing, and so next-to-nothing; but then the next-to-nothing rises and ascends body and soul to the Father by the power of the Father. Christ rises bodily and ascends bodily. A strange idea: bodily ascension out of the entire spatio-temporal-bodily matrix! He ascends to the Father who is pure spirit. So, in ascending, Christ brings matter, albeit a transformed or transfigured matter, into the spiritual realm which must therefore be amenable to such materialization. It must permit it, be patient of it. The divine spiritual milieu cannot be essentially impervious to material penetration.
Before the creation and before the Incarnation of the Creator into the created order divine spirit had the power to manifest itself materially, and in the Incarnation the power not only to manifest itself materially but to become material. The divine Word becomes flesh; the Word does not merely manifest itself in a fleshly vehicle. It becomes that vehicle and comes to suffer the fate of all such vehicles, dissolution. The divine spirit was always already apt for materialization: it bore this possibility within it from the beginning. It was always already in some way disposed toward materialization. On the other hand, matter was always already apt for spiritualization.
We humans know from experience that we can in some measure spiritualize ourselves and indeed freely and by our own power. We know ourselves to be spiritual beings while also knowing ourselves to be animals, animated matter, necessarily dependent on inanimate matter including air, water, dead plants and dead meat. (When an animal eats another animal alive, the first is after the matter of the second, not after its being animated.)
Whether or not we exercise our severely limited power of self-spiritualization, we are spiritual animals whether we like it or not and whether we know it or not: we think. Each one of us is a hunk of thinking meat. We are meaning meat. How is this possible? The matter of physics cannot think. But we are thinking matter. This is the mystery of the entanglement of spirit and matter in us. We live it and we experience it.
We could call it the 'The Little Incarnation.' Mind is incarnated, enfleshed, in us. The Little Word, the Little Logos, has always already been incarnated is us, separating us as by an abyss from the rest of the animals. Here, in us, we have an ANALOGY to the Incarnation proper. In the latter, the Second Person of the Trinity does not take on a human body merely, but an individual human nature body and soul. So I speak of an analogy. Incarnation in the case of Christ is not a mere enfleshment or embodiment. The Little Incarnation in us is the apparently necessary enfleshment of our spiritual acts in animal flesh.
The mystery of the entanglement of spirit and matter in us reflects the mystery of the entanglement of spirit and matter in God. Divine spirit is pregnant with matter, and accepting of the risen matter of Christ, but matter is also pregnant with divine spirit. Mary is the mother of God. A material being gives birth to God. This is how the Word, who is God, is made flesh to dwell among us for our salvation from meaninglessness and abandonment to a material world that is merely material.
Matter in Mary is mater Dei. Matter in Mary is mother and matrix of the birth of God.