John Lennon was gunned down this night in 1980 by Mark David Chapman. I remember that night well: a student of mine called me in the middle of it to report the slaying. Lennon was my least favorite Beatle due to his silly utopianism, as expressed in the lyrically inane 'Imagine,' but this tune of his from the 1965 Rubber Soul album is a gem, and more than fit to remember him by.
And I believe he penned Tomorrow Never Knows from the Revolver album, the best song I know of about meditation. It gives me goose bumps still, almost 50 years later.
Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did. And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.
Thus what he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true. Well, you can’t get any evidence about what existed before space and time came into being. Above all he believes that these mathematically based speculations solve thousand year old philosophical conundrums, without seriously engaging those philosophical issues. The belief that all of reality can be fully comprehended in terms of physics and the equations of physics is a fantasy. As pointed out so well by Eddington in his Gifford lectures, they are partial and incomplete representations of physical, biological, psychological, and social reality.
And above all Krauss does not address why the laws of physics exist, why they have the form they have, or in what kind of manifestation they existed before the universe existed (which he must believe if he believes they brought the universe into existence). Who or what dreamt up symmetry principles, Lagrangians, specific symmetry groups, gauge theories, and so on? He does not begin to answer these questions.
It’s very ironic when he says philosophy is bunk and then himself engages in this kind of attempt at philosophy. It seems that science education should include some basic modules on Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and the other great philosophers, as well as writings of more recent philosophers such as Tim Maudlin and David Albert.
I fear that a lot of our contemporary scientists are hopelessly bereft of general culture. They are brilliant in their specialties but otherwise uneducated. But that does not stop the likes of Dawkins and Krauss and Coyne and Hawking and Mlodinow from spouting off about God and time and the meaning of life . . . . They want to play the philosopher without doing any 'homework.' They think it's easy: you just shoot your mouth off.
My Scientism category contains detailed critiques of Krauss and other 'scientisticists' to give an ugly name to an ugly bunch of 'philosophistines.' I coined 'philosophistine' years ago to refer to philistines when it comes to philosophy.
One of the tactics of leftists is to manipulate and misuse language for their own purposes. Thus they make up words and phrases and hijack existing ones. 'Islamophobe' is an example of the former, 'disenfranchise' an example of the latter. 'Racial profiling' is a second example of the former. It is a meaningless phrase apart from its use as a semantic bludgeon. Race is an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Apparel is an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
Let's think about this.
I profile you if I subsume you under a profile. A profile is a list of several descriptors. You fit the profile if you satisfy all or most of the descriptors. Here is an example of a profile:
1. Race: black 2. Age: 16-21 years 3. Sex: male 4. Apparel: wearing a hoodie, with the hood pulled up over the head 5. Demeanor: sullen, alienated 6. Behavior: walking aimlessly, trespassing, cutting across yards, looking into windows and garages, hostile and disrespectful when questioned; uses racial epithets such as 'creepy-assed cracker.' 7. Physical condition: robust, muscular 8. Location: place where numerous burglaries and home invasions had occurred, the perpetrators being black 9. Resident status: not a resident.
Now suppose I spot someone who fits the above profile. Would I have reason to be suspicious of him? Of course. As suspicious as if the fellow were of Italian extraction but fit the profile mutatis mutandis. But that's not my point. My point is that I have not racially profiled the individual; I have profiled him, with race being one element in the profile.
Blacks are more criminally prone than whites.* But that fact means little by itself. It becomes important only in conjunction with the other characteristics. An 80-year-old black female is no threat to anyone. But someone who fits all or most of the above descriptors is someone I am justified in being suspicious of.
There is no such thing as racial profiling. The phrase is pure obfuscation manufactured by liberals to forward their destructive agenda. The leftist script requires that race be injected into everything. Hence 'profiling' becomes 'racial profiling.' If you are a conservative and you use the phrase, you are foolish, as foolish as if you were to use the phrase 'social justice.' Social justice is not justice. But that's a separate post.
I wrote and posted the above in July of last year. This morning I find in The New Yorker a piece entitled No Such Thing as Racial Profiling. It is just awful and shows the level to which our elite publications are sinking. It is not worth my time to rebut, but I will direct my readers to the author's comments on the R. Giuliani quotation. Get out your logical scalpels.
Addendum. There is also the liberal-left tendency to drop qualifiers. Thus 'male' in 'male chauvinism' is dropped, and 'chauvinism' comes to mean male chauvinism, which is precisely what it doesn't mean. So one can expect the following to happen. 'Racial' in 'racial profiling' will be dropped, and 'profiling' will come to mean racial profiling, which, in reality, means nothing.
Any candid debate on race and criminality in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. African-Americans constitute about 13% of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 blacks committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses—including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes—is typically two to three times their representation in the population. [. . .]
"High rates of black violence in the late twentieth century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination," wrote the late Harvard Law professor William Stuntz in "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." "The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments."
"No man speaketh safely but he that is glad to hold his peace. " (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Chapter XX.)
Excellent advice for Christian and non-Christian alike. Much misery and misfortune can be avoided by simply keeping one's mouth shut. That playful banter with your female student that you could not resist indulging in -- she construed it as sexual harrassment. You were sitting on top of the world, but now you are in a world of trouble. In this Age of Political Correctness examples are legion. To be on the safe side, a good rule of thumb is: If your speech can be misconstrued, it will be. Did you really need to make that comment, or fire off that e-mail, or send that picture of your marvellous nether endowment to a woman not your wife?
Part of the problem is Political Correctness, but another part is that people are not brought up to exercise self-control in thought, word, and deed. Both problems can be plausibly blamed on liberals. Paradoxically enough, the contemporary liberal promotes speech codes and taboos while at the same time promoting an absurd tolerance of every sort of bad behavior. The liberal 'educator' dare not tell the black kid to pull his pants up lest he be accused of a racist 'dissing' of the punk's 'culture.'
You need to give your children moral lessons and send them to schools where they will receive them. My mind drifts back to the fourth or fifth grade and the time a nun planted an image in my mind that remains. She likened the tongue to a sword capable of great damage, positioned behind two 'gates,' the teeth and the lips. Those gates are there for a reason, she explained, and the sword should come out only when it can be well deployed.
The good nun did not extend the image to the sword of flesh hanging between a man's legs. But I will. Keep your 'sword' behind the 'gates' of your pants and your undershorts until such time as it can be brought out for a good purpose.
Rioters, looters, and their enablers on the Left love to chant, "No justice, no peace!" In one sense of these words, I completely agree. There can be no durable and genuine peace without justice. But there can be no administration of justice without respect for truth. In the Ferguson affair, did justice demand the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson? No, because the evidence presented to the grand jury, which is as close as we are likely to come to the truth of what happened in the altercation between Wilson and Michael Brown, did not warrant Wilson's indictment.
But leftists, true to form, have chosen to ignore the truth. They value truth only if it fits their 'narrative.' According to the 'narrative,' white cops driven by racial animus routinely gun down unarmed blacks. That's a lie and a slander, and leftists know it. But playing the race card works for them politically which is why they play it. So their calls for justice are hollow and indeed absurd. There can be no justice without truth.
3. The individual human nature of the Logos is a substance. 4. Every substance is metaphysically capable of independent existence. 5. The individual human nature of the Logos is not metaphysically capable of independent existence.
I expected Tim to question (4), but he instead questioned (5). That turned the dialectic away from the general-ontological Aristotelian framework, which I was claiming does not allow the coherent conceivability of the Chalcedonian formulation, toward the exact sense of the Chalcedonian theological doctrine of the Incarnation.
As I see it, we are now discussing the following question. Is it metaphysically possible that the individual human being who is the Son of God -- and is thus identical to the Second Person of the Trinity -- exist as an individual human being but without being the Son of God? I thought I was being orthodox in returning a negative answer. As I understand it, the individual human being who is the Son of God in the actual world, our world, is the Son of God in every possible world in which he exists. This is equivalent to saying that Jesus of Nazareth is essentially (as opposed to accidentally) the Son of God. (X is essentially F =df x is F in every possible world in which x exists.)
If I understand what Tim Pawl is saying, his view is that there are possible worlds in which Jesus of Nazareth exists but is not the Son of God. So the issue between us is as follows:
BV: Every metaphysically possible world in which Jesus exists is a world in which he is identical to the Son (the Logos, the Word, the Second Person).
TP: Some metaphysically possible worlds in which Jesus exists are worlds in which he is not identical to the Son (the Logos, the Word, the Second Person).
I do think that there is a merely possible world in which CHN [Christ's human nature] exists as unassumed. In such a world, it fulfills the conditions for being a supposit. And so it fulfills the conditions for being a supposit with a rational nature. So it is a person in that world, [call it W] even though it is not a person in this world [call it A].
I am afraid I find this incoherent. If Jesus is (identical to) the Son of God, then Jesus is (identically) the Son of God in every world in which he exists. To spell out the argument:
1. 'Jesus' and 'Son' are Kripkean rigid designators: they designate the same item in every possible world in which that item exists.
2. Necessity of Identity. For any x, y, if x = y, then necessarily x = y.
3. Jesus = Son.
4. Necessarily, Jesus = Son. (from 2, 3 by Universal Instantiation and Modus Ponens)
5. It is not possible that Jesus not be identical to the Son. (from 4 by the standard modal principle that Nec p is logically equivalent to ~Poss~p.)
Ferguson is of course just one instance. But it is emblematic. As usual, Victor Davis Hanson gets it right:
In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.
In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.
Nor can a government maintain legitimacy when it presides over lawlessness. The president of the United States on over 20 occasions insisted that it would be illegal, dictatorial, and unconstitutional to contravene federal immigration law — at least when to do so was politically inexpedient. When it was not, he did just that. Now we enter the Orwellian world of a videotaped president repeatedly warning that what he would soon do would be in fact illegal. Has a U.S. president ever so frequently and fervently warned the country about the likes of himself?
When the world and its hopelessness are too much with us, one can and must beat a retreat into the private life. Body culture, mind culture, hobbies, family life, the various escapes (which are not necessarily escapes from reality) into chess, fiction, religion, meditation, history, pure mathematics and science, one's own biography and the pleasant particulars of one's past, music, gardening, homemaking . . . .
I pity the poor activist for whom the real is exhausted by the political. But I detest these totalitarians as well since they seek to elide the boundary between the private and the public.
So we need to battle the bastards in the very sphere they think exhausts the real. But it is and must be a part-time fight, lest we become like them. Most of life for us conservatives must be given over to the enjoyment and appreciation, in private, of the apolitical: nature, for example, and nature's God.
I am taking a break from all news and social media. I will be keeping up with your blog, however, as your most recent treatment on the Incarnation is intriguing. I'm taking a break because I'm tired of all of the vehemence being spewed out there. It's not all from the liberals; conservatives have a role to play too. However, much of it is from the liberals.
I agree that conservatives are a part of the problem, but most of the trouble is from the Left. No surprise here. Civility is a conservative virtue. Why should a leftist be civil? He is out to oppose, disrupt, subvert, and bring about radical change. Radical change: not improvement of a system that works well by comparison with other systems elsewhere and elsewhen. The leftist is a nowhere man, a u-topian. He does not stand, like the conservative, upon the the terra firma of a reality antecedent to his wishes, desires, and impossible dreams.
This puts conservatives in a tough spot. For the Left, politics is war. And war cannot be conducted in a civil manner. One has to employ the same tactics as the aggressor or else lose.
The temptation to retreat into one's private life is very strong. But if you give in and let the Left have free reign you may wake up one day with no private life left. Not that 'news fasts' from time to time are not a good idea. We should all consume less media dreck. But there is no final retreat from totalitarians. They won't allow it. At some point one has to stand and fight in defense, not only of the individual, but also of the mediating structures of civil society.
The hypocrisy is just too much. They decry potential violence in the form of the Second Amendment, but think that the rioting is justified and acceptable. They rightly cry out that "Black Lives Matter!" and yet only do so when a white officer shoots an unarmed black man. Where were they when black men are attacking one another? Black lives matter . . . of course they do. So then why raze businesses in their communities, businesses that provide paying jobs which would help those black lives make ends meet? Even if Officer Wilson was guilty, why repay injustice by perpetuating injustice? What did those businesses have to do with any of it? Why burn down police cruisers and confirm in the minds of those white police officers what you think they think of you all. I just don't understand this madness and it depresses me that the majority opinion (or at least the most vocal opinion) is that this is all appropriate and good.
You are talking sense, of course. But there is no common sense on the Left, no wisdom, and worst of all, no concern for truth.
What matters to a leftist is not truth, but the 'narrative.' A narrative is a story, and stories needn't be true to be useful in promoting an 'agenda.'
Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for a very good reason: there was simply no case again him. He was assaulted by the thuggish Michael Brown who had just robbed a convenience store and roughed up its proprietor. Brown then proceeded to walk in the middle of the road, which of course is illegal. Wilson, doing his job, ordered him out of the road and then Brown went on the attack, initiating a physical altercation with the cop and trying to wrest his weapon from him. Outside the car, a bit later, Brown rushed the cop and the cop had no choice but to shoot him dead. The cop did it by the book. Everything he did was legal. And morally permissible.
But leftists do not care what the actual facts are, because, again, they do not care about truth. What actually happened in Ferguson is ignored because it does not comport with the 'narrative' according to which racist white cops shoot down "unarmed black teenagers."
For a leftist, the narrative is everything and truth be damned. Leftists claim to want justice, but without truth there can be no justice.
Was Brown unarmed? Yes, but by the same token Rodney King was a motorist and Trayvon Martin was a child. There is a form of mendacity whereby one deceives by telling truths.
Note the linguistic mischief liberals make. If you say that a person is unarmed, you imply that he is harmless. But an unarmed man who attacks a cop and tries to arm himself with the cop's weapon is not harmless, although, technically, he is unarmed until the moment he succeeds in arming himself.
And of course race doesn't come into this at all except insofar as blacks are more criminally prone than whites.
Nor should this be a liberal-conservative issue, unless liberals are opposed to the rule of law. I fear that here in fact is the salient point: contemporary liberals have no respect for the rule of law, from Obama and Holder on down. (Turkish saying: Balık baştan kokar: "The fish stinks from the head.") Examples are legion: Obamacare, illegal immigration, et cetera ad nauseam.
The truth is that Michael Brown by his preternaturally imprudent, immoral, and illegal behavior brought about his own demise. Had he been brought up properly to respect the law and its legitimate enforcers, he would be alive today. All he had to do was get out of the street! But no! He started a fight with a cop, taunted him, called him 'a pussy,' threw the cigarillos he had stolen at him, as if to say, "What are you going to do about it, pig?" (Was Brown suicidal?)
You could say that I am blaming the victim. But unless one is profoundly stupid one must agree with me that this is a clear case in which blaming the victim is perfectly justified.
It's crunch time with term papers and grading and guest lectures for my supervisor, so I have to retain an aggressive posture from this point until December 15th. Hence my fast from media. And I need time to emotionally process all of this. I have appreciated your blog and the perspective you offer. It is a voice crying out in the wilderness.
I have taught high school and college-aged kids for many years, and am very often lobbed the relevance question. The logical coherence of the concept of God. Theories of space and time. Classic questions in epistemology and metaphysics. "How is this relevant," they ask. It annoys me. I make an impotent gesture toward the intrinsic value of knowledge, but am always left frustrated by having to defend what is so obvious to me --and to everyone else prior to the mid twentieth century--the indelible importance of these topics. Maybe you can help me out?
I don't know how much help I can be, but here are some thoughts.
1. The philosophy teacher has a problem the calculus instructor, say, does not. The latter does not have to show the relevance of his subject or motivate an interest in it. Perhaps two thirds of the students before him are engineering majors who need no convincing of the relevance of higher mathematics to their career goals. They are interested in mathematics, if not for its own sake, then for the sake of its use. The philosophy teacher, however, has not only to teach his subject but also, unlike the mathematics professor, to argue its relevance and motivate interest.
Philosophy is an end in itself. This is why it is foolish to try to convince philistines that it is good for something. It is not primarily good for something. It is a good in itself. Otherwise you are acquiescing in the philistinism you ought to be combating. [. . .]
To the philistine's "Philosophy bakes no bread" you should not respond "Yes it does," for such responses are patently lame. You should say, "Man does not live by bread alone," or "Not everything is pursued as a means to something else," or "A university is not a trade school." You should not acquiesce in the philistine's values and assumptions, but go on the attack and question his values and assumptions. Put him on the spot. Play the Socratic gadfly. If a philistine wants to know how much you got paid for writing an article for a professional journal, say, "Do you really think that only what one is paid to do is worth doing?"
3. "I make an impotent gesture toward the intrinsic value of knowledge, but am always left frustrated by having to defend what is so obvious to me . . ." Most of the people who need to have this explained to them are not equipped to appreciate any explanation. So we humanists are in a tough spot. One of the conclusions I came too early on was that philosophy simply cannot be a mass consumption item at the college level. Although I didn't mind, and actually enjoyed, teaching logic courses, which can be of some use to the masses, I loathed teaching Intro to Philosophy and other philosophy courses designed to satisfy breadth requirements.
Part of the problem is that college level is so low nowadays that it has become a joke to speak of 'higher education.' People are not there to become educated human beings but to garner credentials that they believe will help them get ahead economically and socially. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but then why waste time on the pursuit of truth for its own sake? The average person has no intellectual eros; what he wants and needs is job training.
4. There is an irony here. People like you and me and thousands of others would never have had the opportunity to make a living from teaching philosophy if the level had not sunk so low, not so much because our level is low, but because there would simply have been no jobs for us if 'higher' education had not metastazised in the 1960s and beyond. So while we complain about the low level of our students, we ought to bear in mind that we have students in the first place and are not selling insurance or writing code because of the democratization of 'higher' ed.
5. I am an elitist, but not in a social or economic or racial sense. Everyone who has what it takes to profit from it ought to have the opportunity to pursue real education -- which is not to be confused with indoctrination in leftist seminaries -- in institutions of higher -- no 'sneer' quotes -- education. Equality of opportunity! But of course there will never be equality of outcome or result because people are not equal.
Philosophy -- the real thing, not some dumbed-down ersatz -- cannot be a mass consumption item. It is for the few. But who those few are cannot be decided by criteria of race or sex or age or religion or national origin. High culture is universal and belongs to all of us, even though we individually and as members of groups are not equal in our ability to contribute to it.
Thanksgiving evening, the post-prandial conversation was very good. Christian Marty K. raised the question of what one would say were one to meet God after death and God asked, "What did you do with your life?"
Atheist Peter L. shot back, "What did you do with your life, God?"
In my judgment, and it is not just mine, the fact of evil is the main stumbling block to theistic belief. While none of the arguments from evil are compelling, some of them render atheism rationally acceptable. This has long been my view. Atheism and theism are both rationally acceptable and intellectually respectable, though of course they cannot both be true.
This puts me at odds with the Pauline passage at Romans 1: 18-20. I'll summarize it. Men are godless and wicked and suppress the truth. What may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. Human beings have no excuse for their unbelief. "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . . ."
Paul's claim here is that the existence and nature of God are evident from creation and that unbelief is a result of a willful turning away from the manifest truth. There is no excuse for unbelief because it is a plain fact that the natural world is divine handiwork. Now I am a theist and I am sympathetic to Christianity. But although I have one foot in Jerusalem, the other is planted firmly in Athens (philosophy, the autonomy of reason). And so I must point out that to characterize the natural world as 'made' or 'created' begs the question in favor of theism. As begging the question, the Pauline claim about the evidentness of the world's being created offers no support for theism. It is an analytic proposition that there is no creation without a creator. So if the heavens and the earth are a creation, then it follows straightaway that a creator exists.
But is the world a divine creation? This is the question, and the answer is not obvious. That the natural world is a divine artifact is not evident to the senses, or to the heart, or to reason. Of course, one can argue for the existence of God from the existence and order of the natural world. I have done it myself. But those who reject theistic arguments, and construct anti-theistic arguments, have their reasons too, and it cannot fairly be said that what animates the best of them is a stubborn and prideful refusal to submit to a truth that is evident. It is not evident to the senses that the natural world is a divine artifact.
I may be moved to marvel at "the starry skies above me" (Kant). But seeing is not seeing as. If you see the starry skies as divine handiwork, then this is an interpretation from within a theistic framework. But the datum seen can just as easily be given a nontheistic interpretation.
At the end of the day you must decide which of these interpretations to accept. You will not find some plain fact that will decide it for you. There is no fact you can point to, or argument you can give, that definitively rules out theism or rules it in.
If the atheism of some has its origin in pride, stubborness and a willful refusal to recognize any power or authority beyond oneself, or beyond the human, as may well be the case with such luminaries as Russell and Sartre, it does not follow that the atheism of all has this origin.
By the way, here we have the makings of an argument for hell. If someone, post-mortem, in the divine presence, and now fully cognizant of the ultimate metaphysical 'lay of the land,' were to persist in a pride Luciferian, and refuse to acknowledge and worship the ultimate Source of truth, goodness, beauty, and reality, a Source itself ultimately true, good, beautiful, and real, then the only fitting place for someone who freely chose to assert his miserable ego in defiance of its Source would be hell. It would be deeply unjust and unreasonable to permit such a person the visio beata.
The question was put to atheist A. C. Grayling. His response:
No, my views will not change; I am confident in the rationalist tradition which has evaluated the metaphysical and ethical claims of non-naturalistic theories, and definitively shown them to be vacuous in all respects other than the psychological effect they have on those credulous enough to accept them.
Should we perhaps speak here of the faith of a rationalist? And isn't there something unphilosophical about Grayling's stance? He is sure that his views will not change and confident in the rationalist tradition. He is not open to having his views changed by further thought or argument or evidence. Not very philosophical, not very Socratic. Socrates knew only that he did not know. Grayling knows.
He blusters when he speaks of what has been "definitely shown." Nothing of a substantive nature has ever been definitively shown in philosophy, and certainly not the "vacuousness" of the metaphysical and ethical claims of non-naturalism. Besides, it is simply false to say that these claims are "vacuous." Though they may be false, for all we know, they are quite definite and meaningful claims. 'Vacuous' means 'empty.' In this context it means empty of sense or significance.
What you have to understand about Grayling and his New Atheist ilk is that they are ideologues, no different in this respect from their anti-naturalist, religious counterparts. (Compare the Thomist view that it has been definitely shown that God exists, that the existence of God is knowable with certainty by unaided human reason.) Grayling and Co. are not philosophers who love the truth and seek it because they don't have it; they fancy themselves possessors of the truth and its guardians against the benighted.
So if unshakable confidence in the definitive truth of one's position can lead to violence and oppression, why is this a danger only on the religious side of the ideological divide and not on the anti-religious side? That is a question that ought not be evaded. Don't forget what the communists did to the religious people, instituitions, monuments, and sites in the lands where they gained control.
Grayling postsof mine. They are polemical. He polemicizes; I polemicize right back. Meet polemics with polemics, civil truth-seeking dialog with civil truth-seeking dialog.
As one of my aphorisms has it: Be kind, but be prepared to reply in kind.
David P. Goldman talks sense about Ferguson and the liberal-left threat to civil society and the rule of law:
The argument of what now might be termed a “criminals’ rights movement” is that the police should not have the right to use force against felons whose crimes do not reach a certain threshold. What that threshold might be seems clear from the repeated characterization of Brown as an “unarmed black teenager.” Unless violent felons use deadly weapons, it appears, the police should not be allowed to use force.
To restate the “civil rights” argument in a clearer way: Young black men are disproportionately imprisoned. One in three black men have gone to prison at some time in their life. According to the ACLU, one in fifteen black men are incarcerated, vs. one in 106 white men. That by itself is proof of racism; the fact that these individuals were individually prosecuted for individual crimes has no bearing on the matter. All that matters is the outcome. Because the behavior of young black men is not likely to change, what must change is the way that society recognizes crime itself. The answer is to remove stigma of crime attached to certain behavior, for example, physical altercations, petty theft, and drug-dealing on a certain scale. The former civil rights movement no longer focuses its attention on supposedly ameliorative social spending, for example, preschool programs for minority children, although these remain somewhere down the list in the litany of demands. What energizes and motivates the movement is the demand that society redefine deviancy to exclude certain classes of violent as well as non-violent felonies.
The logic of the criminals’ rights movement is as clear as it is crazy: Because the outcome of the criminal justice system disproportionately penalizes African-Americans, the solution is to decriminalize behavior that all civilized countries have suppressed and punished since the dawn of history. Because felonious behavior is so widespread and the causes of it so intractable, the criminals’ rights movement insists, society “cannot afford to recognize” criminal behavior below a certain threshold.
If America were to accept this logic, civil society would come to an end. The state would abandon its monopoly of violence to street rule. Large parts of America would come to resemble the gang-ruled, lawless streets of Central America, where violent pathology has overwhelmed the state’s capacity to control it, creating in turn a nightmare for America’s enforcement of its own immigration law.
Here, by Steven Hayward, with a tip of the hat to an old friend, Ingvar Odegaard. My comment:
Whites who speak of 'white privilege' would do well to reflect as well on 'black privilege.' One of the 'privileges' of blacks these days, apparently, is the right to riot and loot when a decision of the criminal justice system goes against their prejudices.
There is a lot of talk these days about white privilege. I don't believe I have discussed this topic before.
1. White privilege is presumably a type of privilege. What is a privilege? This is the logically prior question. To know what white privilege is we must first know what privilege is. Let's consider some definitions.
D1. A privilege is a special entitlement or immunity granted to a particular person or group of persons by the government or some other corporate entity such as a university or a church on a conditional basis.
Driving on public roads is a privilege by this definition. It is not a right one has just in virtue of being a human being or a citizen. It is a privilege the state grants on condition that one satisfy and continue to satisfy certain requirements pertaining to age, eyesight, driving skill, etc. Being a privilege, the license to drive can be revoked. By contrast, the right to life and the right to free speech are neither conditional nor granted by the government. They can't be revoked. Please don't confuse a constitutionally protected right such as the right to free speech with a right granted by the government.
Faculty members have various privileges, a franking privilege, a library privilege, along with such perquisites as an office, a carrel, secretarial help, access to an an exclusive dining facility, etc. Immunities are also privileges, e.g., the immunity to prosecution granted to a miscreant who agrees to inform on his cohorts.
Now if (D1) captures what we mean by 'privilege,' then it it is hard to see how there could be white privilege. Are there certain special entitlements and immunities that all and only whites have in virtue of being white, entitlements and immunities granted on a conditional basis by the government and revocable by said government? No. But there is black privilege by (D1). It is called affirmative action.
So if we adopt (D1) we get the curious result that there is no white privilege, but there is black privilege! Those who speak of white privilege as of something real and something to be aware of and opposed must therefore have a different definition of privilege in mind, perhaps the following:
Here again my annual Thanksgiving homily, addressed as much to myself as to my Stateside and worldwide readers:
We need spiritual exercises just as we need physical, mental, and moral exercises. A good spiritual exercise, and easy to boot, is daily recollection of just how good one has it, just how rich and full one's life is, just how much is going right despite annoyances and setbacks which for the most part are so petty as not to merit consideration.
Start with the physical side of your life. You slept well, and a beautiful new day is dawning. Your breath comes easy, your intestines are in order. Your mind is clear, and so are your eyes. Move every moving part of your body and note how wonderfully it works, without any pain to speak of. Brew up some java and enjoy its rich taste, all the while rejoicing over the regularity of nature that allows the water to boil one more time, at the same temperature, and the caffeine to be absorbed once more by those greedy intercranial receptors that activate the adrenalin that makes you eager to grab a notebook and jot down all the new ideas that are beginning to percolate up from who knows where.Finished with your body, move to your mind and its wonderful workings.
Then to the house and its appliances including your trusty old computer that reliably, day after day, connects you to the sphere of Nous, the noosphere, to hijack a term of Teilhard de Chardin. And don't forget the country that allows you to live your own kind of life in your own kind of way and say and write whatever you think in peace and safety.
A quotidian enactment of something like the foregoing meditation should do wonders for you.
On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.
Incredibly, Christ Church capitulated, the college’s censors living up to the modern meaning of their name by announcing that they would refuse to host the debate on the basis that it now raised ‘security and welfare issues’. So at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth, the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices.
Here is the response you must make to these liberal-left shitheads:
Dennis Prager here details recent vicious attacks upon himself and his wife, and then offers an explanation of liberal-left scumbaggery:
First, truth is a not a left-wing value (though, of course, some individuals on the left have great integrity). If you don't know that, you cannot understand the left. Truth is a conservative value (though, of course, some individuals on the right lie). From the Bolsheviks to today's left-wing, lying is normal. Not one left-wing comment or article (except for the HuffingtonPost reference to the MIT report) even dealt with the issue of the truth of the claim that one out of every five female college students is sexually assaulted/raped, or the truth of the charge that our universities are a "culture of rape."
Second, mockery, indeed cruel mockery, is the norm on the left. I urge readers to visit any of the liberal websites cited and read the comments after the articles. No significant American group hates like the left does. If you differ with them -- from global warming, to race relations, to same-sex marriage, to the extent of rape on college campuses -- they will humiliate, defame, libel and try to economically crush you.
Addendum: More liberal-left scumbaggery: New York Times publishes Darren Wilson's Address. Liberals see politics as a form of warfare, and they will do anything to win. "All's fair in love and war." When will conservatives wise up to this and learn how to fight back?
The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption. How does the IRS ever quite recover? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?
[. . .]
Every statistic that Obama has produced on Obamacare enrollment, deportation, unemployment and GDP growth is in some ways a lie. Almost everything he has said about granting amnesty was untrue, from his own contradictions to the congressionally sanctioned small amnesties of prior presidents. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.
This entry is a further installment in a continuing discussion with Tim Pawl, et al., about the Chalcedonian Christological two-natures-one-person doctrine. Professor Pawl put to me the following question:
You ask: “Now if an accident is not the sort of item that can be crucified and bleed, how is it that an individual substance can be the sort of item that is not its own supposit or support, that is not broadly-logically-possibly independent, but is rather dependent for its existence on another substance?”
You then say: “That is tantamount to saying that here we have a substance that is not a substance.” I don’t see that it is tantamount to . . . . And I don’t see the force of the analogy from accidents to individual substances. Could you spell out the reasoning a bit more, if you are inclined?
We all agree that the accidentality of the Incarnation cannot be understood as the having by the Logos of an Aristotelian accident. Thus we all agree that
1. The Logos, while existing in every metaphysically possible world, does not have a human nature in every world in which it exists. That is, the Logos is neither essentially nor necessarily human. (X is essentially F =df x is F in every possible world in which x exists; x is necessarily F =df x is F in every world in which it exists and x exists in every world. For example, Socrates is essentially human but not necessarily human; the number 7 is both essentially prime and necessarily prime.)
2. The Logos' accidentally had humanity (individual human nature) is not an Aristotelian accident of the Logos as Aristotelian substance.
And we all agree why (2) is true. Briefly, an accident is not the sort of item that can be crucified and bleed.
So if the human nature of the Logos is not an accident of any substance, then it is a substance. We now face an antilogism:
3. The individual human nature of the Logos is a substance. 4. Every substance is metaphysically capable of independent existence. 5. The individual human nature of the Logos is not metaphysically capable of independent existence.
The triad is clearly inconsistent: the conjunction of any two limbs entails the negation of the remaining one.
Limb (4) is a commitment of the Aristotelian framework within which Chalcedonian Christology is articulated, while the other two limbs are commitments of orthodox theology.
So something has to give. One solution is to reject (4) by adding yet another 'epicycle.' One substitutes for (4)
4*. Every self-suppositing substance is metaphysically capable of independent existence.
Under this substitution the triad is consistent. For what (4*) allows are cases in which there are substances with alien supposits. The individual human nature of Christ, though a substance, is not a self-suppositing substance: it is not its own supposit. Its supposit is the Logos. So its being a substance is consistent with its not being capable of independent existence.
If I say to Tim Pawl, "What you are countenancing is a substance that is not a substance," I expect him to reply, "No, I am not countenancing anything self-contradictory; I am countenancing a substance that is not a self-suppositing substance!"
To which my response will be: "You have made an ad hoc modification to the notion of substance for the sole purpose of avoiding a contradiction; but in doing so you have not extended or enriched the notion of substance but have destroyed it. For a substance by definition is an entity that is metaphysically capable of independent existence. A substance whose supposit is a different substance is not an accident but it is not a substance either. For it is not metaphysically capable of independent existence."
Recall what my question has been over this series of posts: Is the one-person-two-natures formulation coherently conceivable within an Aristotelian framework?
My interim answer is in the negative. For within the aforementioned ontological framework, the very concept of a primary substance is the concept of an entity that is broadly-logically capable of independent existence. Any modification of that fundamental concept moves one outside of the Aristotelian framework.
Appendix: The Concept of an Accident
What is an accident and how is it related to a substance of which it is the accident? Let A be an accident of substance S. And let's leave out of consideration what the scholastics call propria, 'accidents' that a substance cannot gain or lose. An example of a proprium would be a cat's being warm in virtue of its internal metabolic processes, as opposed to a cat's being warm because it has been sleeping by a fire.
The following propositions circumscribe the concept of Aristotelian accident.
P1. Necessarily, every accident is the accident of some substance or other. (This assumes that there are no accidents of accidents. If there are, then, necessarily, every accident that is not the accident of an accident is the accident of some substance or other.)
P2. No accident of a substance can exist except by existing in (inhering in) a substance. Substances are broadly-logically capable of independent existence; accidents are not. Substances can exist on their own; accidents cannot.
P3. Accidents are particulars, not universals. They are as particular as the substances of which they are accidents. Thus accidents are not 'repeatable.' If Socrates is seated and Plato is seated, and seatedness is an accident, then there are two seatednesses, not one.
P4. Accidents are non-transferrable. Some particulars are transferrable: I can transfer my pen to you. But accidents are not transferrable. I can give you my coat but not my cold. So not only is every accident the accident of some substance or other; every accident is the accident of the very substance of which it is an accident.
Thoughts don't like to subside. One leads to another, and another. You would experience the thinker behind the thoughts, but instead you have thoughts about this thinker while knowing full well that the thinker is not just another thought. Or you lovingly elaborate your brilliant thoughts about meditation, its purpose, its methods, and its difficulty, thoughts that you will soon post to your weblog, all the while realizing that mental blogging is not meditation.
"Man is a stream whose source is hidden," said Emerson and you would swim upstream to the Source. So you make an effort, but the effort is too much for you. Perhaps the metaphor is wrong. One from al-Ghazzali might be better.
A cooling evening breeze is more likely to come to the desert dweller if he climb to the top of the minaret than if he stay on the ground. So he makes an effort within his power, the effort of positioning himself to receive, when and if it should come, a gust of the divine favor.
He waits for the grace that may overcome the gravity of the mind and its hebetude.
To meditate is to wait, and therein lies or sits the difficulty.
This morning's session (sitting in plain English) was good and lasted from 3:30 to 4:25. Fueled by chai: coffee is too much the driver of the discursive. But now the coffee is coming in and I'm feeling fabulous and the thoughts are 'percolating' up from who knows where.
What is wrong with people who don't drink or enjoy coffee? They must not value consciousness and intensity of experience. Poor devils! Perhaps they're zombies (in the philosophers' sense).
UPDATE (11/24): Up from a nap, I pour me a serious cup of serious java (Kirkland Portland Bold), and log onto to email where I find a note from Patrick Kurp who recommends Rick Danko and Paul Butterfield, Java Blues, one hard-driving, adrenalin-enabling number which, in synergy with the nap and the aforesaid java, has this old man banging hard on all synaptic 'cylinders' and ready for some more scribbling.
Chicory is a cheat. It cuts it but doesn't cut it.
"The taste of java is like a volcanic rush/No one is going to stop me from drinking too much . . . ."
I hesitate to call them philosophers. David Gordon serves up for our delectation and instruction the following tidbit of Continental balderdash (I quote the whole of Gordon's entry and then add a comment of my own):
The philosophy of Roy Bhaskar, who died November 19, would ordinarily hold little interest for readers of the Mises Blog. Bhaskar was a Marxist, who in his later years veered off toward a fuzzy spirituality. It is worth taking note of him, though, because he was an extreme example of a besetting sin of the contemporary academic world. His prose style made him unreadable; and one of his sentences was selected by the journal Philosophy and Literature as the winner of its 1996 Bad Writing Contest. This was the winning sentence:
Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic reversal — of the unholy trinity of Parmenidean/Platonic/Aristotelean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and its close ally, the epistemic fallacy with its ontic dual; of the analytic problematic laid down by Plato, which Hegel served only to replicate in his actualist monovalent analytic reinstatement in transfigurative reconciling dialectical connection, while in his hubristic claims for absolute idealism he inaugurated the Comtean, Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean eclipses of reason, replicating the fundaments of positivism through its transmutation route to the superidealism of a Baudrillard.
To call this 'bad writing' and 'unreadable' is unduly charitable. I am currently studying Erich Pryzwara's Analogia Entis, trs. Betz and Hart, Eerdman's, 2014. It is poorly written and deserves to be called 'unreadable.' I plan to post on it later. But if you really know your stuff and are willing to read and read and re-read and work very hard, you can more less follow what Pryzwara is saying. His book embodies real thought. The above passage, however, reads like a parody of Continental bullshitting. Continentals love to name-drop. But the above is name-dropping on stilts.
Their space is narrowly hodological: marked by paths along which merely practical needs are met and merely practical tasks discharged. What lies off these beaten paths is as good as nonexistent to them. As their space, so their lives. The pleasures of meandering the byways are foreign to them.
Regular readers of this blog know that I respect and admire Dennis Prager: he is a font of wisdom and a source of insight. But I just heard him say, "Egalitarians by definition lack wisdom." That is another clear example of the illicit use of 'by definition,' a mistake I pointed out in an earlier entry. Here are some examples of correct uses of 'by definition':
Bachelors are by definition male
Triangles are by definition three-sided
In logic, sound arguments are by definition valid. (A sound argument is defined as one whose form is valid and all of whose premises are true.)
In physics, work is defined as the product of force and distance moved: W= Fx.
In set theory, a power set is defined to be the set of all subsets of a given set.
By definition, no rifle is a shotgun.
Semi-automatic firearms are by definition capable of firing exactly one round per trigger pull until the magazine (and the chamber!) is empty.
In metaphysics, an accident by definition is logically incapable of existing without a substance of which it is the accident.
In astrophysics, a light-year is by definition a measure of distance, not of time: it is the distance light travels in one year.
By definition, the luminiferous either is a medium for the propagation of electromagnetic signals.
By definition, what is true by definition is true.
Incorrect uses of 'by definition':
Joe Nocera: "anyone who goes into a school with a semiautomatic and kills 20 children and six adults is, by definition, mentally ill."
Donald Berwick: "Excellent health care is by definition redistributional."
Illegal aliens are by definition Hispanic.
Bill Maher, et al.: "Taxation is by definition redistributive."
Dennis Prager: "Environmentalists are by definition extremists."
Dennis Prager: "Egalitarians by definition lack wisdom."
Capitalists are by definition greedy.
Socialists are by definition envious.
Alpha Centauri is by definition 4.3 light-years from earth.
The luminiferous ether exists by definition.
By definition, the luminiferous ether cannot exist.
I hope it is clear why the incorrect uses are incorrect. As for the first Prager example, it is certainly true that some environmentalists are extremists. But others are not. So Prager's assertion is not even true. Even if every environmentalist were an extremist, however, it would still not be true by definition that that is so. By definition, what is true by definition is true; but what is true need not be true by definition.
As for the second Prager example, it may or may not be true that egalitarians lack wisdom depending on the definition of 'egalitarian.' But even if true, certainly not by definition.
So what game is Prager playing? Is he using 'by definition' as an intensifier? Is he purporting to make a factual claim to the effect that all environmentalists are extremists and then underlining (as it were) the claim by the use of 'by definition'? Or is he assigning by stipulation his own idiosyncratic meaning to 'environmentalist'? Is he serving notice that 'extremist' is part of the very meaning of 'environmentalist' in his idiolect?
Similar questions ought to be asked of other misusers of the phrase.
It is quite unreasonable to suppose that the appeal to sweet reason is the best way forward in all of life's situations. The reasonable appreciate that the hard fist of unreason applied to the visage of evil intransigence is sometimes the most cogent of 'arguments.'
It is unreasonable to be reasonable in all things.
Soft determinism is still determinism. And it's really not a different type of determinism. It is, rather, drawing different conclusions from determinism, or rather, not drawing the conclusion that we are not free and not morally responsible for our actions.
A track star at the University of Southern California, Louis Zamperini was swept up like so many of his generation into World War II. Story and interview here.
In May 1943, his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. For 47 days, he floated on a raft in the ocean. He was then captured by the Japanese, who held him prisoner until August 1945. These experiences tormented Zamperini’s postwar life, but in 1949 things began to turn around for him. Zamperini forgave the men who held him prisoner, including the sadistic Japanese corporal, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who was known as the “Bird.”
Zamperini credits a young Billy Graham for bringing him to Christ and forgiveness.
I, or rather this site, experienced a surge yesterday: 4,207 pageviews. Why? Beats me. My traffic is usually in the 1600-2000 pageviews per day range. This, the TypePad version of MavPhil commenced operations on Halloween 2008. This third incarnation of MavPhil is closing in on the 3 million total pageview mark. That's nothing to crow about, I know, but I thought you might be interested.
I thank you for your 'patronage.' And remember: triple your money back if not completely satisfied.
Any complaints? Fill out the form below:
UPDATE. The day ended at 5 pm with 2, 298 pageviews.
A recent argument of mine questioning the coherent conceivability of the one person-two natures doctrine of Chalcedonian Christology begins with the premise
1. If N is a nature of substance s, then s cannot exist without having N. Natures are essential to the things that have them. In possible worlds jargon: If N is a nature of s, then in every possible world in which s exists, s has N. (The modality in play here is broadly logical or metaphysical.)
I pointed out that the argument's conclusion can be best resisted by denying (1). Professor Tim Pawl agrees. He comments:
I think the Aristotelian who wants to maintain Chalcedonian Christology could deny 1 and affirm a nearby proposition:
1’. For any one-natured substance s, if N is a nature of s, then s cannot exist without having N.
Adding the antecedent I’ve added to your 1 here allows for us to say that 1’ remains true in the case of Christ, since the antecedent is false. 1’ does all the work that the Aristotelian would want 1 to do, since every case we think of in mundane (non-christological) situations is a case where the thing in question is single-natured. I wouldn’t think the Aristotelian has any evidence for 1 that would not count as evidence for the revised 1’ as well.
The purpose of this entry is to evaluate Tim's response. But first some preliminaries.
Assumptions. Preliminaries, and Ontological Background
I am not questioning, let alone denying, the fact of the Incarnation. (To insert an autobiographical remark: I am inclined to believe it.) Thus I am not maintaining that there is no sense in which, in a sentence from the Angelus, 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." My question is whether the Incarnation is coherently conceivable within a broadly Aristotelian ontological framework. A negative answer, should one be forthcoming, does not foreclose on the question whether the Incarnation is coherently conceivable within some other ontological framework.
By 'coherently conceivable' I mean 'thinkable without broadly-logical contradiction.' Coherent conceivability is a notion weaker than that of (real as opposed to epistemic) possibility. I am not asking whether the Incarnation is possible, but whether it is coherently conceivable (within a broadly Aristotelian framework). Conceivability is tied to our powers of conception; possibility is not.
Whatever is actual is possible. So if the Incarnation is actual, then it is possible whether or not we can coherently conceive how it is possible, whether or not we can render it intelligible to ourselves, whether or not it satisfies the exigencies of the discursive intellect. So if it should turn out that the Incarnation is not coherently conceivable, the defender of the Incarnation has a mysterian move available to him. He can say, look, "It's the case; so its possibly the case; it's just that our cognitive limitations make it impossible for us (in this life) to understand how it could be the case." The present topic, however, is not mysterianism.
My precise question is this: is it coherently conceivable that one person, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God, the Logos, have both an individual divine nature and an individual human nature? I will assume that a person, as per Boethius, is an individual substance of a rational nature. I will also assume the doctrine of the Trinity.
'Substance' is elliptical for 'primary substance' or 'individual substance' or 'first substance' (prote ousia). If abstract entities are entities that are non-spatiotemporal and causally inert, then individual or individualized natures are not abstract entities. Some of them are spatiotemporal, and all of them are causally efficacious. Thus the individual nature of Socrates is in space and time. (The individual nature of the Logos is not in space and time but it is causally efficacious.) What ties an individual substance to its individual nature is not the external asymmetrical nexus of exemplification: substances don't exemplify their natures; a substance is (identical to) its individual(ized) nature. (See Aristotle, Metaphysics, Z.6) Socrates is not a bare particular, and his nature is not a (conjunctive) property that he exemplifies. Of course, there is a sense in which Socrates and Plato are of the same nature in that both are human. This common humanity, however, has no extramental reality: it is not a platonic object exemplified by the two philosophers.
The nature or essence of an individual substance is the what-it-is of the thing or as Aristotle puts it, to ti ên einai, literally “the what it was to be” of a thing, essentia, quod quid erat esse. (Compare Hegel: Wesen ist was gewesen ist.) It follows that the nature or essence of Socrates is not accidental to him. The idea that the nature of an individual thing could be accidental to it is wholly un-Aristotelian, although it would make sense in an ontological scheme according to which Socrates is a bare particular and his nature is a conjunctive property the conjuncts of which are his non-relational properties. (We find such a scheme in D. Armstrong and R. Grossmann, et al.)
It also seems obvious to me that there is an important difference between the event or fact of the Incarnation and any theological doctrine about it. Theology, I take it, is a type of applied philosophy: it is philosophy applied to the data of revelation. The Incarnation is one such datum since it is God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. So it seems obvious to me that we ought to distinguish the datum from its doctrinal formulation. To repeat myself, I am concerned with the latter.
Evaluation of Tim Pawl's Response
Tim makes a time-honored move in alleviation of the contradiction that issues from my reductio ad absurdum argument: he makes a distinction. One can always avoid or remove a contradiction by making a distinction. He distinguishes between one-natured substances and substances that have more than one nature. He then restricts my (1) to one-natured substances. The result of the restriction is (1'). Accordingly, it is only one-natured substances that are under the requirement that their natures be had by them essentially. Now if we plug (1') into my argument in lieu of (1), no contradiction results. Although a one-natured substance has its one nature essentially (in every world in which the substance exists), a multi-natured substance may have a nature that it has accidentally (in only some of the worlds in which the substance exists).
Unfortunately, this trades one problem for another. For now the problem is to understand how an Aristotelian substance that has two natures can have one of them accidentally. The Logos exists necessarily. In the patois of possible worlds, it exists in every possible world. And it is divine (has the divine nature) essentially, i.e., in every world in which it exists. Since it exists in every world, it has the divine nature in every world. But it has the human nature only in some worlds. So the Logos has the human nature accidentally.
The problem is: How can any substance have a nature accidentally? Don't forget: we are operating within an Aristotelan framework and our precise question is whether the one person-two natures doctrine is coherently conceivable within that framework. As I said above, the nature or essence of an individual substance cannot be accidental to it. (The connection between a substance and its nature cannot be assayed as the external asymmetrical nexus of exemplification.) The idea that the nature of an individual thing could be accidental to it is wholly un-Aristotelian.
To sum up. Professor Pawl makes a distinction between single-natured substances which stand under the requirement that their natures be had essentially by them and multi-natured substances that are not subject to this requirement. This distinction blocks the contradiction my reductio issued in. But Pawl's distinction does not succeed in rendering the Chalcedonian formulation coherently conceivable within the Aristotelian framework because it requires a notion that makes no sense within that ontological framework, namely, the notion that a substance can have a nature accidentally.
To modify the Aristotelian framework in that way is not to extend it or enrich it in the light of new data, but to destroy it. What the Christologist ought to do is reject the framework. He needn't abandon the Incarnation. There are other approaches to it. I hope to sketch one in a separate post.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, New York Review Books, 1990, p. 112, Notebook G, Aph. #24:
To make man as religion wants him to be resembles the undertaking of the Stoics: it is only another grade of the impossible.
I agree completely with Herr Lichtenberg that the Stoic ideal is an impossible one.
The Stoic sage would be as impassible as God is impassible. But here's something to think about: Jesus on the cross died in agony like a man, even though, if he was God, he could have realized the Stoic ideal.
What is the lesson? Perhaps that to be impassible is for us impossible, and so no ideal at all.
What Lichtenberg overlooks is that while Stoicism is a self-help therapeutic, religion, or at least Christianity, is not: no Christian who understands his doctrine fancies that he is able by his own power to effect genuine, deep-going, and lasting self-improvement.
What Lichtenberg fails to appreciate is that what is impossible for us, both individually and collectively, is not impossible with divine assistance.
If you deny the possibility of divine assistance, then you ought to abandon the project of ameliorating in any truly fundamental way the human condition: just accept it as it is, else you may end up like the Communists who murdered 100 million in the 20th century alone in quest of their u-topia.