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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


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Hi Bill,

I like these distinctions and agree with your conclusions concerning them. I think, though, that there is a fourth type of consistency, performative consistency. This is the kind of consistency that is at issue in retortion arguments. It's not the same as your pragmatic consistency because it's not about the application of a principle to cases, but rather the relation between an action and its presuppositions. Nor is it the same as logical consistency. I am performatively inconsistent if I assert "I do not exist", but it is surely logically possible that I not exist.

Hi Alan,

Excellent comment. I agree completely. And since I said at the top, "There are at least three types of consistency . . . ," a remark which allows for further types, your comment is logically consistent with my post.

Retortion is a fascinating topic which I have puzzled over in other posts. Retorsive arguments seeks to establish a thesis by uncovering a performative inconsistency in anyone who attempts to deny it. Rand and Co. often seem to be giving primitive retorsive arguments. (But Randian reasoning is so slovenly that one can never tell.) Scholastics use them as well. It would be interesting to explore how exactly they stand to transcendental arguments. They seem to be close kin. An external indication of affinity is that Transcendentala Thomists use retortion and also take Kant seriously unlike their paleoThomistic brethren.

I hope you are having a great year at ND.

Thanks, Bill.

I think you're right that retorsive arguments and transcendental arguments are very closely related. I think the former are probably just a special case of the latter. Both are concerned with presuppositions. Transcendental arguments, as I understand them, focus on the necessary conditions for the possibility of X. Retorsive arguments, I conjecture, are transcendental arguments in which X stands for an assertoric speech-act.

Anyway, I'm having a very good time at ND. In fact, there's a good chance I may be around here for one more year (without a stipend, unfortunately). The absolutely dismal job market this year has not been kind to me. I did get two interviews with good schools, but nothing came of either. Fortunately, we have enough savings to get by for a while. We've got a wonderful church family, and our 14.5-month-old daughter is just the apple of my eye. So I'm blessed. If a permanent job doesn't come along within the next couple years, however, I'm afraid that I may have to take up lens grinding.

So ND will give you some courses to teach for the coming school year? That will tide you over and give you another shot at the job market. But many people think we are sliding into a severe depression. You're good and deserve a permanent position, but the competition is ferocious and cutbacks are occurring everywhere. At ASU and elsewhere faculty are being put on furlough. Even tenure is no protection in a severe depression. So you are well-advised to give serious thought over the next year to re-tooling into the modern-day equivalent of lens grinding. The election of Obama, though good for the self-esteem of blacks, and perhaps good for race relations, is proving to be a disaster for the country as a whole.

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