She approved — of all things — of the Women’s March. “I think it’s important that women rediscover solidarity with themselves,” she said. “It really wasn’t about feminism. It’s really not about Trump. It’s not about any of that. It was all of a sudden, Oh, wow, to be with all the women.”
Still, the pussy hats: She buried her face in her hands as she discussed them. “I was horrified, horrified by the pink pussy hats,” she said; the pink pussy hats were “a major embarrassment to contemporary feminism.”
“I want dignity and authority for women,” she said. “My code is Amazonism. I want weapons.”
Robert Blake is back in the news, which fact justifies, as if justification is needed, a re-post from 18 May 2011.
Epicurus (circa 341-271 B.C.) wrote the following to a disciple:
I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclinations as you will provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not checked by some one of these provisos is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm. (Italics added, Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, trans. R. M. Geer, Macmillan, 1987, pp. 69-70)
Had Bill Clinton heeded this advice, kept his penis in harness, and his paws off the overweight intern, he might have left office with an impressive legacy indeed. But instead he will schlep down the centuries tied to Monica like Abelard to Heloise -- except for the fact that he got off a lot easier than poor Abelard.
Closer to home is the case of Robert Blake whose lust led him into a tender trap that turned deadly. He was very lucky to be acquitted of the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakeley. Then there was the case of the dentist whose extramural activities provoked his dentist wife to run him down with the family Mercedes. The Bard had it right: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
Most recently, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has secured himself a place in the annals of libertinage while wrecking his career. Ah, those sophisticated Frenchmen.
This litany of woe can be lengthened ad libitum. My motive is not Schadenfreude, but a humble desire to learn from the mistakes of others. Better that they rather than I should pay my tuition in the school of Hard Knocks. Heed me, muchachos, there is no more delusive power on the face of the earth than sex. Or as a Turkish proverb has it, Erkegin sheytani kadindir, "Man's devil is woman." And conversely.
From the Powerblogs archive. Originally posted 13 December 2005.
As you all know by now, Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed at San Quentin, California at 12:35 AM PT. I take no pleasure in this man's or any man's death; but I do take satisfaction from justice's being served. I simply do not understand how anyone who is not morally obtuse can fail to see that justice demands capital punishment in cases like this.
Not only did this fellow brutally murder four people, three of them members of a Chinese family, "Buddha-heads" in the miscreant's lingo, but he also helped found the Crips gang. So he is indirectly and partially responsible for hundreds and perhaps thousands of other crimes including rapes, carjackings, murders, you name it. Not only that, he failed to show any remorse, failed to take responsibility for his deeds, and played the predator right to the end, attempting to stare down the press there to witness his last moments.
But no fact and no argument I or anyone adduces will make any impression on liberal gush-heads like Bill Press, Ed Asner, Mike Farrell and their ilk. Bill Press the other day opined that capital punishment is "cruel and unusual." To say something so stupid, and so typical of a liberal, is to empty that phrase of all meaning. Williams died by lethal injection, painlessly. He wasn't broken on the wheel, drawn and quartered -- or cut in half by a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun, which is how he murdered one of his victims.
So there is cause to celebrate: not the death of a man, nor the awesome power of the state, but that justice was done and the Left was handed a stinging rebuke.
How soon they forget, and what paucity of historical sense! Or perhaps journalists just don't care to get things right. Chalk it up to truth decay. The O. J. Simpson murder trial was not the trial of the century.
As contemporary 'liberals' become ever more extreme, they increasingly assume what I call the political burden of proof. The onus is now on them to defeat the presumption that they are so morally and intellectually obtuse as not to be worth talking to.
Sanctuary cities and marijuana legalization statutes are examples of local and state governments ignoring federal law. But federal authorities and elected officials who vent about those subjects should look to their own disregard of the law. Two recent instances of the lawlessness of Beltway elites concern the U.S.-Mexico border barrier and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im).
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for the construction of 700 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Not even the most shameless sophist will argue that anything like that happened. Far fewer than even 100 miles of high fencing followed. The feds did lay down vehicle barriers and counted those as “miles” toward compliance, but it’s laughable to contend that the law was implemented in any meaningful way.
It was conservative inaction that gave Trump traction. On this issue as on others.
Douglas MacKinnon makes the case. After a stinging assessment of George W. Bush, MacKinnon has this to say about Obama:
Next, the American people got a president who was inserted in the protective and unquestioning bubble of political correctness at about twenty years of age, who kept his grades, his transcripts, his SAT scores, his IQ and much of his early life a state secret, and who had virtually no real-world work experience. At least none that was not handed to him on a silver platter.
Purely because of his lack of real-world experience, coupled with his socialist views on life, he proceeded to decimate our health care system, force millions of Americans into poverty and onto food stamps, create more debt than the combined debt of every president before him, weaken our military to the breaking point, and cause our allies to no longer trust us. All while playing over 300 rounds of golf and squeezing in more vacation time than most Americans will take in a lifetime.
Fortunately for this president who was schooled by some truly reprehensible socialists, Marxists and haters, he and his wife begin their new lives as a former president and former first lady with a book deal valued somewhere between $30 million to $60 million.
As someone who spouts socialism and the redistribution of wealth, maybe he can be convinced to give most of those tens of millions of dollars to the families of the approximately 4,000 murder victims (about equal to U.S. losses in Iraq and more than U.S. losses in Afghanistan) in his hometown of Chicago. Surely he won't forget that he once lectured a hardworking plumber that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
The notion that we should always and everywhere apportion belief to evidence in such a way that we affirm only that for which we have sufficient evidence ignores the fact that belief for beings like us subserves action. If one acted only on those beliefs for which one had sufficient evidence one would not act as one must to live well.
When a young person believes that he or she can do such-and-such, it is almost always on the basis of insufficient evidence. And yet such belief beyond the evidence is a sine qua non of success. There are two necessary conditions of success in life: one must believe that what one proposes to do is worth doing, and one must believe that one is capable of doing it. In both cases one believes and acts on evidence that could hardly be called sufficient.
As a young man observing my professors, I said to myself, "I can do this and I can do it better!" (It can be advantageous to have mediocre teachers!) My belief in myself was not without evidence but surely was not grounded in sufficient evidence. (Suppose we agree that sufficient evidence for proposition p renders p more likely than not.) My believing in myself was a believing well beyond the evidence. But my belief in self, even unto cockiness, was sine qua non for my success. Effort follows belief. In cases like these, belief is a matter of the will: one chooses to believe that a certain good is attainable despite the insufficiency of the evidence the intellect can gather at the time.
This strikes me as a good maxim: Don't let insufficient evidence prevent you from believing what you are better off believing than not believing.
Let's consider another example.
The New Neighbors
What evidence do I have that my new neighbors are morally decent people? Since they have just moved in, my evidence base is exiguous indeed and far from sufficient to establish that they are decent people. (Assume that some precisifying definition of 'decent' is on the table.) Should I suspend judgment and behave in a cold, skeptical, stand-offish way toward them? ("Prove that you are not a scumbag, and then I'll talk to you.") Should I demand of them 'credentials' and letters of recommendation before having anything to do with them? Either of these approaches would be irrational. A rational being wants good relations with those with whom he must live in close proximity and whose help he may need. Wanting good relations, he must choose means that are conducive to that end. Knowing something about human nature, he knows that 'giving the benefit of the doubt' is the wise course when it comes to establishing relations with other people. If you begin by impugning the integrity of the other guy, he won't like you. One must assume the best about others at the outset and adjust downwards only later and on the basis of evidence to the contrary. But note that my initial belief that my neighbors are decent people -- a belief that I must have if I am to act neighborly toward them -- is not warranted by anything that could be called sufficient evidence. Holding that belief, I believe way beyond the evidence. And yet that is the rational course.
So again we see that in some cases, to refuse to believe beyond the evidence is positively irrational. A theory of rationality adequate for the kind of beings we are cannot require that belief be always and everywhere apportioned to evidence.
It can also be shown that there are cases in which believing, not beyond, but against the evidence is sometimes rational.
Is it possible to be a religiously pious Pyrrhonian? The Pyrrhonian skeptic, aspiring to tranquillity of mind, tries to live without beliefs. These of course include religious beliefs which are a prime cause of bitter and sometimes bloody contention. So one might think that a skeptic of the stripe of Sextus would have nothing to do with religion. But this is not the case. Skepticism does not require abstention from religion. What Pyrrhonian skepticism implies is the project of beliefless piety or beliefless religiosity. Let me explain.
The Pyrrhonian skeptic is in quest of the human good. But he is convinced that theoretical inquiry will not lead us to it. His is a medicinal or therapeutic conception of philosophy. We are ill, and we need a cure, an empirical cure. ('Empiricus' is not Sextus' last name!) Therapy, not theory! would make a good Pyrrhonian motto. There may be truth, but certain knowledge of it is unavailable to us. We are thrown back upon beliefs. But beliefs are many, they conflict, cancel each other, and inflame ugly passions. Belief conflict militates against that freedom from disturbance or ataraxia which Pyrrhonian skeptics deem essential to human well-being (eudaimonia). On their view the cacophany of competing belief claims is a prime source of kakadaimonia. Beliefs are part of the problem.
The skeptical cure for our doxastic ills is suspension of belief and a tranquil re-insertion into the quotidian. We emerged from the everyday to seek the truth that we thought would bring felicity, but the truth rebuffed us, proving unknowable. We were cast back upon beliefs and the strife of systems. We ought then to return to everyday living and everyday discourse. Hence my talk of re-insertion into the quotidian. It is in the service of tranquillity. Tranquillity, not truth! might serve as a good second Pyrrhonian motto.The tranquil re-insertion into the quotidian involves acquiescence in the customs and traditions of one's time and place.
Among the most widespread and deeply embedded customs and traditions are those of a religious nature. Making his peace with the everyday and the ordinary, the Pyrrhonian makes his peace with the observances, rites, rituals, and verbal formulations of the religion practiced around him. He participates in the observances and assents verbally to the formulae of worship and belief. But he abstains from inner commitment.
A Pyrrhonian Catholic
A Pyrrhonian Catholic might attend mass and in that context recite and give verbal assent to the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God the Father, almighty creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son . . . . But while uttering sentences, our Pyrrhonian would not affirm or deny any propositions. Withholding assentfrom theological propositions, he would suspend judgment on such questions as whether or not God exists; whether or not the cosmos is ontologically derivative from a causa prima; whether and in what sense this First Cause is omnipotent; whether and in what sense this God has a Son, and so on. Thus he would presumably not get into a fight with an atheist over the existence of God, or with a Muslim over the tripersonality of God. Our Pyrrhonian would simply go along with the prevailing religious customs and usages of his time, place, and social group while (silently) withholding intellectual assent from propositions which purport to record the structure of reality apart from language games and forms of life, to employ, anachronistically, some Wittgensteinian turns of phrase. (The post-Tractarian Wittgenstein was also an exponent of philosophy as therapy.) Time to quote an authority.
Terence Penelhum: "The skeptic continues with the rituals and the formulae of his tradition, self-consciously seeing it as a tradition and not believing it, yet not denying it." (God and Skepticism, D. Reidel 1983, p. 14, emphasis in original.)
A radical Pyrrhonian Catholic might take it a step further. It is one thing to suspend judgment with respect to a proposition; a more radical thing to doubt whether there is any proposition to suspend judgment about. The radical Pyrrhonian Catholic grants only the verbal formula; he does not grant that it expresses a proposition. For example, he might doubt, with respect to the formula "There is one God in three divine persons" whether there is any coherent proposition that this sentence expresses. The sentence is a grammatically admissible concatenation of individually meaningful words, but this leaves open the question whether there is a unitary sense, or Fregean Gedanke/proposition, that these words, taken collectively as forming a sentence, express. Our radical will not assert that there is no such proposition; he will express his being at a loss over the question. He will give vent to the mental state of aporia, the state of being at a loss, being perplexed, flummoxed, uncomprehending.
With respect to the Trinitarian formulation, the moderate Pyrrhonian Catholic grants that the formula expresses a proposition, but suspends judgment as to the truth or falsity of the proposition. The radical Pyrrhonian Catholic, by contrast, suspends judgment as to whether or not the formula expresses a proposition.
Let us now put the radical 'on the back burner' to stew in his juices. We may revisit him later.
Is the Moderate Position on Pyrrhonian Piety Plausible?
It is widely agreed that it is impossible for a Pyrrhonian to have no beliefs at all. But this is not our question. Our question is whether it is possible, and if possible plausible, for a person to live religiously, talking the talk and walking the walk, playing the language game and participating in the form of life, without specifically religious or theological dogmatic commitments or adherences. Is beliefless religiosity possible? Is it possible to give merely verbal but nonetheless sincere assent to religious formulae while suspending belief as to the truth value of the propositions these formulae express or imply?
I say it is not possible and so not plausible. What would it be to give merely verbal sincere assent to "I believe in God the Father, almighty creator of heaven and earth . . . ." while suspending judgment with respect to such propositions as: God exists, God is omnipotent, God is a creator, The cosmos and its contents are creatures, and so on? This is impossible if the mental state of suspension is one in which one is settled on suspension and ceases all further inquiry convinced that the truth values of the propositions in question are unknowable. For then suspension is in the service of tranquillity, not truth. One ceases caring about truth. But then one cannot sincerely utter the formulae. One cannot sincerely say the sentence 'God created the world' in the context of a religious service without accepting the proposition the sentence expresses. Of course, not every utterance of a sentence is an assertive utterance; but a sincere utterance of a religious sentence in the context of divine worship cannot be other than assertive. Or so say I.
But suppose suspension of judgment is not in the service of tranquillity, but in the service of cognition. I suspend judgment pro tempore in the interests of inquiry the better to get at the truth. But then one forsakes the Pyrrhonian stance as I understand it. Suppose I sincerely say "Christ was born of a virgin" in the context of a worship service. This seems compatible with suspending judgment on the proposition expressed so long as my suspension is in the service of ongoing inquiry and I allow the possibility of a future acceptance of the proposition in question.
We need to think further and harder about the distinction between suspension in the service of tranquillity and suspension in the service of cognition. I detect a tension between the two in the skeptic camp. The skeptic qua inquirer cannot rest in tranquillity and quietism renouncing all concern for truth; but as a therapist out to cure us of ataraxia-busting belief, he must rest in tranquillity and renounce the quest for truth.
Is it not essential to the skeptical stance that attainment of the human good does not require participation in the truth?
. . . and the obstructionist Democrat crapweasels out to subvert the duly elected president. As Horowitz points out, the destructive Dems call themselves the Resistance as part of their narrative according to which Trump = Hitler. A short video with my favorite gun-totin' lesbian, Tammy Bruce.
It’s been exactly 40 years since my late wife and I quit as English profs at Middlebury College, where hundreds of screaming students wouldn’t allow Charles Murray, one of the nation’s foremost conservative intellectuals, to speak to them yesterday, as a campus conservative group had invited him to do.
Neven Sesardic’s recent book, When Reason Goes on Holiday, provides a detailed account of the morally questionable actions undertaken in the interest of political causes by some of the most important philosophers in the analytic tradition: Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Imre Lakatos, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, among several others. Some of their actions were not just questionable from a moral point of view, but outright reprehensible. Yet, as Sesardic points out in the conclusion to his book, the reaction from the philosophical community has been one of utter indifference . . . .
I have never made a budget in my life. Never having made one, I have never had to adhere to one. The budgeter is involved in a negative enterprise: he essays to control and curtail spending. He allocates so much money for this, and so much for that, and strives to stick to his limits. But positive methods are often superior to negative ones. If you want to lose weight, for example, it is better to exercise and burn more calories, while holding your caloric intake constant, than to eat less while holding steady on caloric expenditure. (Aside from the optimal course which is to do both at the same time.) Part of the reason for this is that it is harder to break an old habit than to begin a new one.
Similarly with budgeting. To budget is to approach your personal finances negatively when a positive approach is superior. Instead of setting limits to spending in various categories, specify target savings and investing amounts, and aim high. The Wealthy Barber has a chapter entitled "The Ten Percent Solution." As I recall, the author recommends investing 10% of gross income for long-term growth. That's chickenfeed to my conservative mind. We save and invest far more than this. The best way to do this, of course, is by automatic payroll deduction. You arrange for your employer to direct deposit some percentage of your income into the account of your choice. You then live on what is left over.
Why do you need a budget? If you are self-disciplined you will naturally watch your spending, and of course you will never ever use a credit card for its credit feature. You will use it only for its float, record-keeping, rebate, and convenience features. Allow me to brag so as to make a point that is very important for everyone. I have never paid a cent of credit card interest in my life, and in the last several years, each year I have received $400- $500 cash in rebates for the use of a couple of cards which charge me no fee for their use. The credit lines are huge but I go nowhere near them, and the interest rates I could not care less about. Not only that, but the 'float' makes me even more money. Let's say I have the use of $2,000 for six weeks. During that period the goods are in my possession but the money is at my disposal in a cash reserve account earning interest.
Suppose you are a leftist knucklehead who hates 'corporate America.' What better way to stick it to the credit card companies than by becoming a free-rider?
So I ask again, why do you need a budget? If you are self-disciplined you will naturally watch your spending, and if you are not self-disciplined then you will lack the discipline to adhere to your budget. Or is this a false alternative?
When I was a graduate student, 'back in the day,' I lived on 2-3 K per annum. That was in Boston, one expensive town. And then I got a job which paid for starters the princely sum of 12 K per annum. I said to myself: "Surely, I can save and invest half of that!" But attitude is everything. Attitude and will and good judgment. For example, if you are inclined to become financially independent, then you would be a fool to marry someone whose idea of Nirvana is a wallet full of charge cards with unlimited credit lines.
The moral side of the economic problem is paramount to a conservative like me. Those who can deny themselves and defer gratification can become financially well-off in a stable political and economic environment such as we enjoy in these United States. But of course people will not deny themselves and defer gratification. So they must suffer the consequences. The problem is akrasia, weakness of the will. The fundamental problem is not predatory credit card companies, subprime mortgage scammers, and the payday loan sharks. For if you are self-disciplined, cautious, and diligent, they will not be able to get a handle on you.
Enjoyed your Sunday post on Pyrrhonism. It’s been a while since I worked on Sextus, but it strikes me that your essay on the Skeptics’ route to adoxia passes by an important premise: the attainment of equipoise and proper role of philosophy.
The skeptics don’t depend upon a normative principle like (o), but in fact a (stronger) claim that it is impossible to believe or assent to a proposition for which the evidence is strongly divided. Just as assent to what is evident in experience is involuntary, so lack of assent is an involuntary response, not merely a good policy, in the face of divided evidence. It is psychologically impossible to assent in those circumstances.
BV: I argued that without the normative principle
0) One ought to withhold assent from any proposition for which the evidence is not demonstrative/compelling
one would not be able to move validly from
1) There is no compelling reason to accept either T or its negation ~T
2) One ought to suspend judgment by withholding assent from both T and ~T.
Suppose one is in a state of doxastic equipoise as between T and its negation ~T: one has no evidential grounds for preferring the thesis to its negation. What ought one do? Some say one ought to suspend judgment. My point was that one cannot validily infer the obligation to suspend judgment from the fact that one is in a state of doxastic equipose without assuming the principle of intellectual integrity, (0). I then went on to argue that this principle is a doxastic commitment of the Pyrrhonian skeptic and that therefore the skeptic cannot be said to be free of all beliefs.
Slim's point, I take it, is that the question of either rationally or morally justifying suspension of judgment does not arise for the skeptic since it is psychologically impossible to be in the state of evidential equipoise and not suspend judgment. Just as no one is a doxastic voluntarist with respect to the sensed sweetness of honey, no one is a doxastic voluntarist with respect to suspension of judgment in a state of evidential equipoise.
There are two questions here. One concerns the interpretation of Sextus. The other concerns how things stand in reality. The second is my main interest. I say it is quite possible to be in a state of equipose with respect to a pair of contradictory propositions and to assent to one rather than the other. What is actual is possible, and I actually affirm theism (the proposition that God exists) despite my belief that the arguments for and against balance and cancel. Therefore, it is possible for a person to be in a state of evidential equipose with respect to a pair of contradictory propositions and to assent to one rather than the other. This also shows that equipoise is not the same state as suspension. I suspect that S. S. Slim is conflating the two.
Let us think about this more carefully. What I am concerned to understand is the transition from the state of equipoise to the state of suspension. They are obviously not the same state. Why does the skeptic, when he is in equipoise, suspend belief? I can think of three answers.
a) Because it is psychologically impossible for him to believe once the state of evidential equipoise has been reached. Suspension follows involuntarily upon equipoise.
b) Because conflicting beliefs are disturbing; mental disturbance is incompatible with ataraxia; the latter is required for happiness (eudaimonia); the skeptic wants to be happy. Our skeptic voluntarily chooses to suspend belief for the sake of happiness.
c) Because of a commitment to a principle of intellectual integrity that requires one not to believe beyond the evidence. Our skeptic voluntarily suspends belief in situations in which contradictory claims balance and cancel to satisfy a precept of the ethics of belief.
Ad (a). This is Slim's view. It strikes me as obviously false. Suppose Old Man Clanton has never run a marathon and that the evidence for and against his completing the 26.2 mile course in the allotted time is evenly balanced. What's to stop Clanton from choosing to believe he can do it? Nothing. He voluntarily believes beyond the evidence. There is nothing psychologically impossible about this. What's more, believing beyond the evidence in a situation like this is both rationally and morally justifiable. We all know that effort follows belief: If I believe I can do something, I will make a greater effort, and will be more likely to pull it off.
I am unsure about what Sextus would say, but what I have read of him and his commentators suggests that he too would reject (a)., and that his reasons for suspension are (b) and (c). But I am open to refutation on this point if Slim or anybody can send me some text references.
The skeptics, recall, are zetetics, resolute inquirers into contentious philo questions like the existence of God. A thorough philosophical inquiry, the Skeptics believe, will take us to the point where strong arguments on both sides robustly oppose each other. This is a point of evidential equipoise, and the mind’s innate response to equipoise is to believe in or assent to neither. Equipose is spontaneously both a stable and a tranquil state of mind, free of contentious loyalties and anxious self-doubt.
Would that this were so! And obviously the skeptic is also not free of a whole set of dogmatic beliefs about how the mind must and cannot assent. And desire also follows automatically on assent, so if we believe in God, for example, we must desire a God-pleasing life. But philosophy enables us to escape doubtful, turbulent beliefs and commitments and to control what we believe and desire by taking us to a state of equipoise and so non-assent and tranquility.
A question I would give to you is whether philo inquiry ever takes us to something like equipoise, and if does, is this a stable and tranquil state.
BV: Slim may be conflating the state of equipoise with the state of suspension. But if he isn't, I would grant only that some people suspend belief in evidential equipoise, not all. After all, there are pragmatic and prudential reasons for belief in addition to evidential ones. Does being in equipoise lead to mental tranquillity? Not invariably.
Too many of the academic philosophers of consciousness are overly concerned with the paltriest aspects of consciousness, so-called qualia, and work their tails off trying to convince themselves and others that they are no threat to physicalism.
While man's nobility lies in the power of thought whereby he traverses all of time and existence, our materialists labor mightily to make physicalism safe for the smell of cooked onions.
I am reminded of the Marx Brothers line: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Dennett asks us to turn our backs on what is glaringly obvious—that in consciousness we are immediately aware of real subjective experiences of color, flavor, sound, touch, etc. that cannot be fully described in neural terms even though they have a neural cause (or perhaps have neural as well as experiential aspects). And he asks us to do this because the reality of such phenomena is incompatible with the scientific materialism that in his view sets the outer bounds of reality. He is, in Aristotle’s words, “maintaining a thesis at all costs.”
That's right. When a line of reasoning issues in an absurdity such as the absurdity that consciousness and its deliverances are illusions, then what you have is a reductio ad absurdum of one or more of the premises with which the reasoning began. Dennett assumes physicalism and that everything can be explained in physical terms. This leads to absurdity. But Dennett, blinded by his own brilliance -- don't forget, he counts himself one of the 'brights' -- bites the bullet. He'd rather break his teeth than examine his assumptions.
Another thing struck me. Dennett makes much of Wilfrid Sellars' distinction between the manifest and scientific images. 'Image' is not quite the right word. An image is someone's image. But whose image is the scientific image? Who is its subject? It is arguably our image no less than the manifest image. Nagel quotes Dennett as saying of the manifest image: "It’s the world according to us." But the same, or something very similar, is true of the scientific image: it's the world in itself according to us. Talk of molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, and strings is our talk just as much as talk of colors and plants and animals and haircuts and home runs.
The world of physics is the world as it is in itself according to us. Arguably, the 'according to us' gets the upper hand over the 'in itself' relativizing what comes within the former's scope much like Kant's transcendental prefix, Ich denke. Das 'ich denke' muss alle meine Vorstellungen begleiten koennen . . . . "The ''I think' must be able to accompany all my representations." (KdrV, B 131-2)
Arguably, the world of physics is a mind-involving construct arrived at by excluding the mental and abstracting away from the first-person point of view and the life world it reveals. I am alluding to an idealist approach to the problem of integrating the first- and third-person points of view. It has its own problems. But why is it inferior to a view like Dennett's which eliminates as illusory obvious data that are plainly not illusory?
Time was when absolute idealism was the default position in philosophy. Think back to the days of Bradley and Bosanquet. But reaction set in, times have changed, and the Zeitgeist is now against the privileging of Mind and for the apotheosis of Matter. (But again, matter as construed by us. Arguably, the scientific realist reifies theoretical constructs that we create and employ to make sense of experience.) Because idealism is out of vogue, the best and brightest are not drawn to its defense, and the brilliant few it attracts are too few to make much headway against the prevailing winds.
Now I'll tell you what I really think. The problem of integrating the first- and third-person points of view is genuine and perhaps the deepest of all philosophical problems. But it is insoluble by us. If it does have a solution, however, it certainly won't be anything like Dennett's.
Although Dennett's positive theory is worthless, his excesses are extremely useful in helping us see just how deep and many-sided and intractable the problem is.
Federalism is what I recommend to ease tensions and preserve the Union. Patrick J. Buchanan explains it well. His piece concludes:
A new federalism—a devolution of power and resources away from Washington and back to states, cities, towns and citizens, to let them resolve their problems their own way and according to their own principles—may be the price of retention of the American Union.
Let California be California; let red state America be red state America.
Julie Kelly explains why she decided to break up with Bill Kristol.
Part of my explanation of the meltdown of Kristol, George Will, John McCain and other nattering nabobs of Never-Trumpism is that the Orange Man is an uncouth interloper who crashed their party and consigned them and theirs to irrelevance.
"The era of empty talk is over," Trump announced in his CPAC speech. And with it the era of Kristol and Co. These yap-and-scribble do nothing boys in their bow ties don't like it; hence their steaming and spluttering.
In his many years in office what has Arizona Senator John McCain done to secure the southern border? Praise him for his military valor in the past. What we need, however, is civil courage in the present. Too much go along to get along, senator.
Part of the explanation for the effete establishment conservatives' hatred of Trump has to do with his personal style and lack of 'class.' He's not one of them. As if 'class' trumps sound conservative actions. Hanson:
Even conservatives sometimes seem more bothered by Trump’s raw uncouthness in service to a conservative agenda than they were by Obama’s sautéed orneriness in advancing progressive hope and change. Years of the Cairo Speech, the apology tours, the Iran deal, the Iraq pullout, Obamacare, record debt and low growth — editorialized by chronic attacks on Fox News, along with “you didn’t build that,” “punish our enemies,” and “I won” putdowns from Obama — never prompted calls for the 25th Amendment like those in some anti-Trump tweets. Is the difference predicated on class, accent, education, tone, appearance, tastes, comportment, or the idea that a shared Beltway culture trumps diverse politics?
[. . .]
The final irony? The supposedly narcissistic and self-absorbed Trump ran a campaign that addressed in undeniably sincere fashion the dilemmas of a lost hinterland. And he did so after supposedly more moral Republicans had all but written off the rubes as either politically irrelevant or beyond the hope of salvation in a globalized world. How a brutal Manhattan developer, who thrived on self-centered controversy and even scandal, proved singularly empathetic to millions of the forgotten is apparently still not fully understood.
Some will say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Of course, Trump might still blow it bigly. (That is indeed a recognized word.) We shall see.
By the way, Obama got away with his "sautéed orneriness" [brilliant phrase, Victor!] because of the black privilege black politicians enjoy and exploit to the hilt: the race card is used to deflect any and all criticisms as originating from anti-black animus alone. That is why no black pol ever leaves home without it. The race card, I mean.
The Trump haters in their furious incoherence oscillate between calling him
. . . an anti-American traitor and Russian plant to calling him a dangerous, fascistic ultranationalist whose relentless hawkishness is bringing us closer to World War Three. Already there are some days when they mount both attacks at the same time: the hawkish traitor whose Nazi style America First ideology leads him to lick Putin’s boots. The media wants to cast Trump as both Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler; but you can’t give the Sudetenland to yourself.
Professor X was a good teacher and colleague. Affable and self-effacing, he was well-liked by all. He was quick with a joke and to light up your smoke — at least back in the good old days when some of us smoked in our offices and the American Philosophical Association hosted a 'Smoker' at their annual conventions. But as the years wore on, Professor X, bereft of the stimulation of first-rate minds, became lazy and given to resting on his laurels. An early book, based on his dissertation, showed considerable promise, but a fair judge would have to conclude that he buried his talents rather than using them. He published nothing in the professional journals, sometimes opining that no one read them anyway. Like many, he became too comfortable. Tenure, often advertised as a bulwark of academic freedom, became in his case, as in so many others, an inducement to inactivity. He never progressed much beyond the level of his dissertation.
His real life was elsewhere, in family and friends and such hobbies as woodworking. Once, emerging from a year-long sabbatical cushioned on both ends by long summers with no teaching, he had nothing to show for his release time except a fine bookcase he had built. Like many of the long-tenured and unproductive, he was given to professional envy. When the distinguished philosopher Y came and read a paper for a paltry $200 honorarium, X questioned whether Y was worth so much especially given that this was a paper Y had read before other departments. X's scholarly inactivity was not for the sake of service elsewhere in the academic community: he had a knack for avoiding administrivia and such other academic chores as commenting on papers at conferences.
But now he has passed from our midst, and who among us does not have faults and limitations? Professor X's kindness and collegiality will surely remain in our memories. He will be missed.
"Pyrrhonism is not a doctrine, but a way of intellectual life, a way of thinking, talking, and acting." (Benson Mates, The Skeptic Way, Oxford UP 1996, p. 66) Mates is a careful writer and his meaning is clear: Pyrrhonism is not a doctrine at all. It involves no beliefs or teachings or doctrines or dogmas. There is no Skeptic credo. The whole point of it is to live without beliefs, belieflessly, adoxastos.
Nice work if you can get it. In these days of bitter controversy and unremitting acrimony, would it not be great to be able to float through life belieflessly?
Before asking whether it is possible to live without beliefs, we should consider why a life without beliefs might be thought to be desirable. But before that we need to understand what the Pyrrhonian skeptic means by 'belief.'
What is belief?
According to Mates, and I follow him on this, belief is "a firmly maintained affirmative attitude toward a proposition purporting to describe some feature of the external world . . . ." (SW, 60) To illustrate, suppose our skeptic tastes some honey. Speaking with the vulgar, he may say 'This honey is sweet.' But he will think with the learned and intend 'This honey is sweet' as elliptical for 'It seems to me at present that this honey is sweet.' Thus he does not go beyond the sensory appearances, nor does he allow himself to fall into dispute with a cantankerous table mate who, tasting honey from the same jar, claims that the honey is not sweet. There is nothing to dispute because there is no one proposition that the skeptic affirms and his table mate denies.
Sticking to the sensory seeming, our skeptic refuses to accept or affirm the proposition that the honey is sweet, a proposition that purports to describe a feature of the external world. Of course, he does not reject or deny this proposition ether. He takes no stand on its truth or falsity. He suspends judgment. He may even take a further step and doubt whether there is any proposition to take a stand on. He may question whether the sentence 'This honey is sweet,' taken at face value and not as elliptical for the modalized sentence above, expresses any proposition. He would then not be suspending judgment as to the truth-value of a proposition, but suspending judgment on the question whether a declarative sentence the constituent words of which possess meaning also possesses a unitary propositional sense or meaning capable of attracting a truth-value. More on this later, perhaps, in a subsequent entry.
As for 'external world,' I take it to refer not only to sense objects as they are in themselves, if there are any, but to any and all objects and state of affairs whose nature and existence are independent of us, whether physical or not. On this use of 'external world,' God and Fregean propositions are in the external world.
Given this understanding of 'belief,' why should living without beliefs be thought to be a good thing?
The beliefless life as the happy life
To put it briefly, the ancient skeptic thinks that belieflessness is the way to happiness. But what is required for happiness? According to the luminaries of late antiquity, ataraxia is at the core of happiness or well-being as a necessary component thereof.
Ataraxia is a concept central to the Skeptics, Stoics, and Epicureans. My concern at the moment is solely with the skeptics, and their main man, Sextus Empiricus. Ataraxia (from Gr. a (not) and taraktos (disturbed)) refers to unperturbedness, freedom from emotional and intellectual disturbance, tranquillitas animi, tranquillity of soul. Thus Sextus (circa 200 anno domini) tells us in his Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book One, Chapter Six, that "Scepticism has its arche, its inception and cause, in the hope of attaining ataraxia, mental tranquillity." (Hallie, p. 35)
The skeptic's goal is not truth, but eudaimonia (happiness or well-being) by way of ataraxia (tranquillity of mind). The central means to ataraxia and happiness is the withholding of assent from all contents of assertion or belief, including such mundane contents as that honey is sweet, but especially those that transcend the mundane and give rise to contention and bitter strife. To use some contemporary examples, beliefs about abortion, gun control, capital punishment, wealth redistribution, illegal immigration, foreign policy, the nature and existence of God etc. lead to strife and in extreme cases bloodshed. Given the difficulty and seeming irresolvability of the issues, the skeptic enjoins the withholding of assent for the sake of ataraxia. The latter is supposed to supervene upon the practice of epoché, the practice of withholding assent.
A quick illustration. Suppose a political conservative maintains the thesis T that capital punishment is morally justified in some cases, while his liberal opponent maintains the opposite (the contradictory proposition, ~T): in no case is capital punishment morally justified. The propositions maintained cannot both be true given the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC). Each side is passionately convinced of the truth of his thesis and each side marshals arguments in support of it. But the best arguments on either side 'cancel out.' Or so the skeptic claims. Upon careful examination of the arguments for and against T, he finds no compelling reason to take one side over the other. This puts him in a state of doubt with respect to T and its negation. He then takes a further step: he suspends judgment about T. This further step is not logically required because one who has no compelling reason to accept one or the other of a pair of contradictory propositions might decide to accept one or the other for no reason at all, or for prudential reasons. Let's think about this.
Is suspension of judgment rationally motivated by lack of demonstrative evidence?
The following is a non sequitur:
1) There is no compelling reason to accept either T or its negation ~T. Therefore:
2) One ought to suspend judgment by withholding assent from both T and ~T.
The inference is invalid, moving as it does from 'is' to 'ought.' Why must I suspend judgment when I can plump for one or the other of the contradictories? An auxiliary premise, however, will validate the inference:
0) One must withhold assent from any proposition for which the evidence is not demonstrative/compelling.
In the presence of (0), the inference from (1) to (2) goes through.
Is the principle of intellectual integrity a belief?
Call (0) the principle of intellectual integrity. It seems that this principle is a doxastic commitment of the skeptic. In plain English, it seems that this is a belief of his. But then he has beliefs after all, which gives the lie to his claim to live adoxastos, belieflessly. Our skeptic obviously needs the principle of intellectual integrity, and I don't think I am dogmatizing if I call it a belief.
We agreed with Mates that, for a skeptic, a belief is " "a firmly maintained affirmative attitude toward a proposition purporting to describe some feature of the external world . . . ." (SW, 60) It seems obvious that (0) is a proposition and that the skeptic has an affirmative attitude toward it. That is, he accepts or affirms it. He believes it. You might object that this proposition does not describe anything. But I think it does. It describes an ideal of human behavior. It describes what a person of intellectual integrity is like. Such a person withholds assent to the non-evident. He doesn't dogmatize in the manner of the Platonist or the Stoic or the Christian.
Our Pyrrhonian skeptic, then, firmly maintains, over time, an affirmative attitude toward a proposition that describes something transcendent of his fleeting sensory states, namely, the person of intellectual integrity, the man who apportions his assent to the evidence and does not irresponsibly affirm beyond the evidence. With respect to (0), the Pyrrhonian is not merely saying how things seem to him at present. He is holding before us an ideal of the sage or wise man that is external to our fleeting mental states.
After all, a way of life cannot be founded upon a subjective seeming that might be overturned tomorrow by a contrary seeming. The skeptic's commitment to his way of life transcends the moment and what seems to him to be the case in the moment.
Pyrrhonism, while obviously not merely a doctrine, rests on doctrines. Others of these I will discuss later. So it is false to say that Pyrrhonism is not a doctrine. It is also false that we can live without beliefs. If anyone can, it is the Pyrrhonist. But we have just seen that he needs beliefs too.
Since it is not possible to live without beliefs, it cannot be desirable to live without beliefs. One cannot rationally desire the impossible.
Fred Barnes argues, very plausibly, that the National Rifle Association played a "critical role" in putting Trump over the top. Of course, the foolish and mendacious Hillary was very cooperative:
"I respect the Second Amendment," she [Hillary] said in the second debate. In the third, she went further. "I also believe there is an individual right to bear arms." But she quibbled with the Supreme Court ruling that upheld that right. She would gut the right by mandating that guns in homes be kept in pieces "to protect toddlers."
The stupidity of this beggars understanding. Apparently, for Hillary, the only safe gun is a useless gun, an instance of what philosophers call a scattered object:
It is. Illegal immigrants are subject to criminal penalties. While improper entry is a crime, unlawful presence is not a crime. One can be unlawfully present in the U. S. without having entered improperly, and thus without having committed a crime.
If a foreign national enters the country on a valid travel or work visa, but overstays his visa, failing to exit before the expiration date, then he is in violation of federal immigration law. But this comes under the civil code, not the criminal code. Such a person is subject to civil penalties such as deportation.
So there are two main ways for an alien to be illegal. He can be illegal in virtue of violating the criminal code or illegal in virtue of violating the civil code.
Those who oppose strict enforcement of national borders show their contempt for the rule of law and their willingness to tolerate criminal behavior, not just illegal behavior.
Being a nice guy covers a multitude of sins. I find it impossible not to feel sad over the passing of the gentlemanly and mild-mannered Alan Colmes who died at age 66. But he really was a foolish and benighted leftist. Better Right than nice. From a 2010 post of mine:
This [the racism charge] is now the party line of the Dems and toe it they will as witness the otherwise somewhat reasonable and mild-mannered Alan Colmes in this segment, Political Hatred in America, from The O'Reilly Factor. Colmes begins his rant around 6:07 with the claim that "what is driving this [the Tea Party protests] is racism." It looks as if Colmes is under party discipline; otherwise, how could so intelligent and apparently decent a man say something so blatantly false and scurrilous? That something so silly and vicious should emerge from the mouth of a twit like Janeane Garofalo is of course nothing to wonder at. What idiocies won't HollyWeird liberals spout? But Alan Colmes? If we remember that for the Left the end justifies the means, however, things begin to fall in place. The Left will do anything to win. Slanders, smears, shout-downs . . . all's fair in love and war. Leftists understand and apply what I call the Converse Clausewitz Principle: Politics is war conducted by other means.
UPDATE (2/24). A Slate leftard attacks the dead man:
Colmes was the most absurd, useless, and mocked television personality in America for many years, precisely because he was nice. In the context of Fox News, being a nice guy—and a “liberal” nice guy at that—meant being a buffoon, and a patsy. Colmes not only played the part to perfection—he defined it.
The pointlessness of much contemporary political discourse was brought home to me once again last night. One Giselle Fernández was a guest on the O'Reilly Factor. In a blatant display of typical liberal-left mendacity she referred twice to a southern border wall as a "Berlin-style wall."
Perhaps the best evidence of the greatness of America and the failure of communism is that communist regimes need walls to keep people in whereas we need walls to keep them out. Hence the rank absurdity of the comparison of a wall on our southern border to the Berlin Wall. Now the leftists who make this comparison cannot be so obtuse as not to see its rank absurdity. But they make it anyway because they will say and do anything to win.
There is no point in further 'conversations.' Action by us, defeat for them.
For a good laugh, see the Telegraph piece below. Germany was once the land of poets and thinkers (Dichter und Denker). Then it became the land of judges and hangmen (Richter und Henker) And now? Untergang des Abendlandes.
To show honor and respect is a conservative practice. There is therefore something paradoxical about leftists erecting icons to iconoclasts. Or is there? Once in power, revolutionaries become conservative.
February brings to the Sonoran desert days so beautiful that one feels guilty even sitting on the back porch, half-outside, taking it all in, eyes playing over the spring green, lungs deeply enfolding blossom-laden warmish breezes. One feels that one ought to be walking around in this earthly heaven. And this despite my having done just that early this morning. Vita brevis, and February too with its 28 days. The fugacity of February to break the heart. It's all fleeting, one can't get enough of it. All joy wants eternity, deep, deep eternity.
And now I head back outside, away from this too-complicated machine, to read simply and slowly some more from Stages on Life's Way and to drink a cup of java to stave off the halcyon sleepiness wrought by lambent light and long vistas on this afternoon in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains.
Former Weekly Standard editor in chief Bill Kristol suggested in a tweet that if he faced a choice (and under what surreal circumstances would that happen?) between the constitutionally, democratically elected president and career government officials’ efforts to thwart or remove him, he would come down on the side of the revolutionary, anti-democratic “deep state”: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it [emphasis added], prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” No doubt some readers interpreted that as a call to side with anti-constitutional forces against an elected U.S. president.
[. . .]
Fake news proliferates. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Elijah Cummings recently attacked departing national-security advisor Michael Flynn by reading a supposed Flynn tweet that was a pure invention. Nor did Trump, as reported, have a serious plan to mobilize “100,000” National Guard troops to enforce deportations.
Other false stories claimed that Trump had pondered invading Mexico, that his lawyer had gone to Prague to meet with the Russians, and that he had removed from the Oval Office a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. — sure proof of Trump’s racism. Journalists — including even “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post — reposted fake news reports that Trump’s father had run a campaign for the New York mayorship during which he’d aired racist TV ads.
We adjust our stride to the steepness of the terrain: the steeper the trail, the shorter the steps. A good writer watches his literary stride: the more difficult the subject matter, the shorter the sentences. Back on the flat he leaps and lopes and stretches his legs.
The following from a German sociologist (my comments are in blue):
Perhaps you know the old joke: Analytic philosophers think that continental philosophy is not sufficiently clear; continental philosophers think that analytic philosophy is not sufficient.
Having just reread the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, I don't see Kant as an analytic philosopher. Hegel and Nietzsche certainly belong to the continental tradition. And none of the philosophers of the 20th century, who really matter to me, can be called an analytic philosopher. Doesn't "analytic" simply mean after Wittgenstein and in his tradition?
BV: As I see it, there was no analytic-Continental split before the 20th century. So classifying Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche in terms of that split is only marginally meaningful. But it is safe to say that Kant is more congenial to analytic philosophers than Hegel and Nietzsche are.
When did the split come about and what is it about?
If I were were to select two writings that best epitomize the depth of the Continental-analytic clash near the time of its outbreak, they would be Heidegger's 1929 What is Metaphysics? and Carnap's 1932 response, "On the Overcoming of Metaphysics Through the Logical Analysis of Language." In fairness to Carnap, let us note that his Erkenntnis piece is more than a response to Heidegger inasmuch as it calls into question the meaningfulness of all metaphysics. And in fairness to Heidegger, we should note that he thinks he is doing something more radical than metaphysics. Metaphysics for Heidegger is onto-theology. Metaphysics thinks Being (das Sein) but always in reference to beings (das Seiende); it does not think Being in its difference from beings. The latter is Heidegger's project.
The following are widely regarded as Continental philosophers: Franz Brentano, Alexius von Meinong, Kasimir Twardowski, Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, Roman Ingarden, Max Scheler, Martin Heidegger, Nicolai Hartmann, Gabriel Marcel, Ortega y Gasset, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus.
Note that the above are all Europeans. But being European is not what makes them 'Continental.' Otherwise Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Rudolf Carnap would have to be lumped in with them. And of course there are Continental philosophers who do not hail from Europe. So what makes the above authors 'Continental' as opposed to 'analytic'?
It is not easy to say, which fact supplies a reason to not take too seriously talk of 'Continental' versus 'analytic.'
Note that all of the Continentals I mentioned engage in analysis, some in very close, very careful analysis. (Ever read Husserl's Logical Investigations?) And please don't say that they don't analyze language. Ever read Brentano? Gustav Bergmann accurately describes Brentano as "the first linguistic philosopher." (Realism, 234) Roderick Chisholm's paraphrastic approach was influenced significantly by Brentano. No one would lump Chisholm in with the Continentals.
Will you say that the Continentals mentioned didn't pay close attention to logic? That's spectacularly false. Even for Heidegger! Ever read his dissertation on psychologism in logic?
Perhaps you could say that the Continentals mentioned did not engage significantly with the ground-breaking work of Frege, widely regarded as the greatest logician since Aristotle. I think that would be true. But does this diffeence suffice to distinguish between Continental and analytic? I don't think so: there are plenty of philosophers who write in a decidedly analytic style who do not engage with Frege, and some of them oppose Frege. Take Fred Sommers. You wouldn't call him a Continental philosopher. And while he engages the ideas of Frege, he vigorously opposes them in his very impressive attempt at resurrecting traditional formal logic. And yet he would be classified as analytic.
A Matter of Style or of Substance?
According to Michael Dummett,
What distinguishes analytical philosophy, in its diverse manifestations, from other schools is the belief, first, that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and, secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained.
[. . .]
On my characterisation, therefore [Gareth] Evans was no longer an analytical philosopher. He was, indeed, squarely in the analytical tradition: the three pillars on which his book [The Varieties of Reference, Oxford, 1982] rests are Russell, Moore and Frege. Yet it is only as belonging to the tradition -- as adopting a certain philosophical style and as appealing to certain writers rather than to others -- that he remains a member of the analytical school. (Origins of Analytical Philosophy, Harvard UP, 1993)
For Dummett, then, what make a philosopher analytic is not the style in which he writes: clear, precise, careful, explicitly logical with premises and inferences clearly specified, free of literary pretentiousness, name-dropping, rhetorical questions, and generally the sort of bullshitting that one finds in writers like Caputo and Badiou. Nor is it the topics he writes about or the authorities he cites. What makes the analytic philosopher are the twin axioms above mentioned.
The trouble with Dummett's criterion is that it is intolerably stipulative if what we are after is a more or less lexical definition of how 'analytic' and 'Continental' are actually used. An approach that rules out Gareth Evans and Roderick Chisholm and Gustav Bergmann and Reinhardt Grossmann and so many others cuts no ice in my book. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?)
A Matter of Politics?
I don't think so. Look again at my list. Sartre was a decided leftist, a Stalinist in his later phase. And Camus was on the Left. But everyone else on my list was either apolitical or on the Right. Heidegger was a National Socialist. Latter-day Continentals, though, definitely slouch Leftward.
A Matter of Academic Politics?
This may be what the Continental versus analytic split comes down to more than anything else. As Blaise Pacal says, with some exaggeration, "All men naturally hate one another." To which I add, with some exaggeration: and are always looking for ways to maintain and increase the enmity. If you are entranced with Heidegger you are going to hate the Carnapian analytic bigot who refuses to read Heidegger but mocks him anyway. Especially when the bigot stands in the way of career success. Although so many Continentals are slopheads, there is no asshole like an analytic asshole.
A Matter of Religion?
No, there are both theists and atheists on my list. And of course there are plenty of analytic philosophers who are theists.
A Matter of Attitude toward Science?
This has something to do with the split. You can be a Continental philosopher and a traditional theist (von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, et al.) and you can be a Continental philosopher and a conservative (Ortega y Gasset), but is there any case of a Continental philosopher who is a logical positivist or who genuflects before the natural sciences in the scientistic manner? I don't think so.
Talk of 'analytic' and 'Continental' philosophy is not particularly useful. It would be better to speak of good and bad philosophy. But what are the marks of good philosophy? That's a post for another occasion.
Back to my correspondent:
I see philosophy more in terms of art than in terms of science. This is not saying that some arguments are not better than others or that one cannot distinguish different degrees of plausibility. But the overall conception (what Heidegger calls "Seinsverständnis) is more - and something essentially different - than the sum of of plausibilities or the logic consistency of the argumentation. There is, or so it appears to me, a 'chanelling' of truth that resembles more the mystical experience than the scientific recognition. Of course I've read Wittgenstein, but why should I spend precious life time reading, say, Gilbert Ryle or Saul Kripke, when I can read Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik?
BV: As I am sure my reader knows, Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik (Science of Logic) has been dismissed as Begriffsdichtung, conceptual poetry. So I am not surprised that he sees philosophy more in terms of art than in terms of science. His attitude is defensible: why read Kripke who is of interest only to specialists in logic and the philosophy of language and who has no influence on anything beyond those narrow precincts when you can read Hegel and come thereby to understand the dialectical thinking which, via Marx and Lenin, transformed the world?
There is also the problem that attempts to bring philosophy onto the "sure path of science" (Kant) have all failed miserably despite the Herculean efforts of thinkers such as Edmund Husserl. He attempted to make of philosophy strenge Wissenschaft, but he could not get even one of his brilliant students to follow him into his transcendental phenomenology. (I don't consider Eugen Fink to be a counterexample.) There is no reason to think that philosophy will ever enter upon the sure path of science. This is a reason to content oneself with the broader, looser, fuzzier approach of the Continentals.
Only if philosophy could be transformed into strenge Wissenschaft would we perhaps be justified in putting all our efforts into this project and eschewing the satisfaction of our needs for an overarching and spiritually satisfying Weltanschauung; we have no good reason to think philosophy will ever be so transformed; ergo, etc.
When Adorno was in Oxford, he wrote in a letter home: "Here it's always just about arguments." Most of his colleagues there did not even understand what he was missing. And that's the divide!
BV: That is indeed a good part of what the divide is all about.
Well, of course this ignorance of the analytic tradition has in my case also to do with cultural nationalism. The philosophical departments here are more and more forgetting about the great German tradition. Thinkers like Hegel or Schelling, let alone Heidegger, are hardly taught anymore. I'm against this, I'm Deutsch and proud of it. Actually I want - and for me that's another reason to be against illegal immigration - Germany to become again a hotspot of art and philosophy!
BV: I agree! When as a young man I spent a year in Freiburg im Breisgau, I was there to study Kant and Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. To my romantic young self Germany was, in the words of Heinrich Heine, das Land von Dichter und Denker, the land of poets and thinkers. You Germans can be justifiably proud of your tradition. Without a doubt, Kant belongs in the philosophical pantheon along with Plato and Aristotle. It is indeed a shame that the analysts are suppressing your great tradition.
As for illegal immigration, if looks from here as if Angela Merkel is a disaster for Germany. Language, borders, and culture are three things every nation has a right to protect and preserve. There is nothing xenophobic or racist about it.