Welcome to the third and latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. I began this weblog in May of 2004 and have kept it up continuously on different servers, missing only a few days. I'm in this game 'for the duration,' as long as health and eyesight hold out. It has proven to be deeply satisfying, not the least reason for which being that my scribbling has attracted a large number of like-minded individuals, some of whom I have met in the flesh, and have come to value highly as friends.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, common place book, workshop, soapbox, sandbox, literary litter box, and online filing cabinet. A lot of what I write here is unpolished and tentative. I explore the cartography of ideas along many paths. Here below we are in statu viae, and it is fitting that our thinking should be exploratory, meandering, and undogmatic. Nothing human, and thus nothing philosophical, is foreign to me.
The graphic well illustrates my approach. A lonesome traveller meanders along a desert path toward a distant prominence which points up and away to the goal of his Quest, a goal fitfully glimpsed, never grasped. Leastways, not while he is on trail and on trial. The quester quests until his thought rests, but the Rest is far off. Meanwhile there is the Quest, an integral part of which is philosophy, reason's resolute search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. After all, this is only a weblog. I write what I know, but also what I do not know and want to find out. Nescio, ergo blogo. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization as deeply unphilosophical. While I have many a bone to pick with Wilfrid Sellars, I heartily endorse the following formulation of his that captures an essential part of the philosophical enterprise:
The aim of philosophy . . . is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.
Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be. See how modest I am? On the other hand, this rarely happens.
My PhilPapers Page currently lists 81 bibliographical items and will give you some idea of my areas of expertise.
I allow comments on only some posts, usually the more technical ones. Too often, the best arguments against an open combox are the contents of one. And to keep the cyberpunks at bay, Comment Moderation is always on. Comments must address what I say in my posts. If you go off on a tangent, I will most likely not allow your comment to appear. Comments must meet a certain standard, and I do not suffer fools gladly. But on some days I go soft, being only human.
I suppose that in these decadent days of the Decline of the West I should issue a TRIGGER WARNING: this is no place for the politically correct. It is not a 'safe space.' Here you will find free speech, trenchancy of expression, open inquiry, and no obeisance to the sacred cows of the Left.
Glenn Reynolds talks sense against such liberal knuckleheads as Howard Dean:
The other hallmark of constitutional illiteracy is the claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate speech.” And by making that claim last week, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, revealed himself to be a constitutional illiterate. Then, predictably, he doubled down on his ignorance.
In First Amendment law, the term “hate speech” is meaningless. All speech is equally protected whether it’s hateful or cheerful. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist or in poor taste, unless speech falls into a few very narrow categories — like “true threats,” which have to address a specific individual, or “incitement,” which must constitute an immediate and intentional encouragement to imminent lawless action — it’s protected.
The term “hate speech” was invented by people who don’t like that freedom, and who want to give the — completely false — impression that there’s a kind of speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect because it’s hateful. What they mean by “hateful,” it seems, is really just that it’s speech they don’t agree with. Some even try to argue that since hearing disagreeable ideas is unpleasant, expressing those ideas is somehow an act of “violence.”
I would add that 'liberals' have a strange tendency to conflate dissent with hate. Obviously, if I dissent from what you maintain, it does not follow that I hate you. And if I express my dissent in speech, it does not follow that my speech is 'hate speech.'
I suspect most 'liberals' have the intellectual equipment to grasp these simple distinctions. So what ought we conclude? That they are hate-filled individuals?
And another thing. If a liberal claims that the Great Wall of Trump is 'hateful,' then I will put to him the question: Is it 'hateful' when you lock your doors at night? No? But doesn't anyone have the right to 'migrate' anywhere he pleases? You just hate people that are different from you, you xenophobe!
Another example. (HT: Karl White) My correspondent, an Irishman living in London, really ought to change his 'racist' surname. And while he's at it, he should ditch his 'Nazi' Christian name or have the decency to change the spelling to 'Carl.' His very name is a two-termed 'micro-aggression'!
Stéphane Mercier, a lecturer in philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven (UCL) in Belgium initially was suspended from teaching, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings, because there was opposition in a class from a feminist group to his philosophical argument to the effect that abortion is the killing of an innocent unborn human life, which is an “intrinsically evil,” always unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances. The response from both the UCL administration and the Belgium Bishops Conference to his philosophical argument, which was put forth in a document entitled “The Philosophy Supporting Life: Against a so-called Right to Choose an Abortion", has been confusing.
A reader sends this:
A student at the institution informs me this is the passage that led to the lecturer's sacking. It was a First Year Philosophy course:
"[...] reminds me of Newspeak, the official language of Oceania in George Orwell's 1984. Voluntary interruption of pregnancy is a euphemism that hides a message, namely the truth, which is that abortion is the murder of an innocent person. It is a murder particularly abject, because the victim has no defense against it. if murdering an innocent person capable of self-defense weren't repulsive enough, taking the life of someone who doesn't have the power to defend himself is even more vile. Today, we hear people who believe abortion is immoral, but don't think about making it illegal, a disturbingly absurd way of reasoning. [...] Imagine that the same person declares rape immoral, but thinks it shouldn't be made illegal in order to protect the freedoms of an individual (except for the victim...). that's absurd, right? So, if abortion is murder, as it is said to be by some, doesn't that make it worse than rape? Rape is immoral, and fortunately illegal as well. Shouldn't abortion, which is even more immoral, be illegal too?"
BV's comment: Imagine getting sacked at any university, let alone a supposedly Catholic university with the word 'Catholic' in its name, for giving this argument!
Leftist termites are undermining the great institutions of the West, and the authorities in charge of these institutions have either abdicated, or are termites themselves. The edifices of higher culture are in dire need of fumigation. Figuratively speaking, of course . . . .
If I am wearing a shirt with pockets, I almost always carry a 3 X 5 notebook and a pen in my top left pocket. People sometimes ask why I carry it. I have a prepared response:
It's in case I get a good idea. Haven't had one yet, but you never know.
And if I am out walking around, another element of my schtick is my stick which is distinctive and also elicits questions. Ask me why I carry it and I have a line at the ready:
Time was when I needed it to beat off women; but now I just need it to keep from toppling over.
I have found that the second line doesn't go over as well. While both involve self-deprecation, which will often endear you to people, or at least blunt the blade of their hidden hostility, the self-deprecation in the second line comes too late for some.
So I cannot recommend the second line in all circumstances. The perceived machismo of the first clause of the second line will sometimes stick in the craw of a humorless feminist.
Perhaps the best advice I could give is to paraphrase a line attributed to the cowboy wit, Will Rogers:
Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.
That of course is an exaggeration. But exaggerations are rhetorically useful if they are in the direction of truths. The truth here is that the damage caused by idle talk is rarely offset by its paltry benefits.
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.
Krystal was a protégé of Jacques Barzun, editing the late polymath’s The Culture We Deserve. Like Barzun, Krystal has resisted specialization. His approach to books is not academic: “There’s nothing wrong with admiring Elmore Leonard without likening him to Proust or Henry James.” To this he adds: “One can be a fan of Agatha Christie, but one can’t really be a fan of George Eliot.” Tell that to the Janeites and Trollopians, and to the devotees of Lee Child and Dean Koontz. Strictly speaking, Krystal isn’t a critic at all, and he certainly has no theories to peddle. We might think of him as an enthusiastic reader who happens to write. He reminds us of the respect once shown to Dr. Johnson’s notion of the common reader, “uncorrupted with literary prejudices.”
Just cut their federal funding. With Trump in the saddle this is a real possibility. Why should taxpayers be forced to support leftist seminaries? Separation of church and state doesn't go far enough. We need separation of Left and state. Just as the state has no right to impose religion on the populace, it has no right to impose that destructive ersatz religion, leftism.
A rollback in funding is probably the only way to get the attention of the corrupt administrators of once great universities and force them to cease their abdication of authority and defend the classical values of the university.
Given what we know from yesterday's Updike entry, the suspicion obtrudes that, while Updike clearly understands the Resurrection as orthodoxy understands it, his interest in it is merely aesthetic in Kierkegaard's sense, and not ethical in the Dane's sense, which suspicion comports well with the charge that Updike radically divorced Christian theology from Christian ethics.
Or perhaps, as a Protestant, Updike thinks that since God in Christ did all the work of atonement, he needn't do anything such as reform his life and struggle and strive for metanoia but can freely enjoy himself in the arms and partake of the charms of other men's wives. Am I being fair?
In Updike’s religion, then, there are no commandments we are meant to keep except the obligation to accept what is: “Religion includes, as its enemies say, fatalism, an acceptance and consecration of what is.” Our only responsibility is to “appreciate” the great gift that life represents. He learned from Barth that the next life is simply this life in review, and from his Lutheranism, he wrote, “a rather antinomian Christianity”—the idea that there are no laws we should fear or live by—which he was “too timid to discard.” There is no hint of final judgment. Nor is there any imperative to repent or improve ourselves: in Begley’s words, “Original sin may be inescapable, but any concerted effort to improve one’s game resembles a righteous struggle for salvation.” And if there was anything he learned from Barth, it was that all human efforts to save ourselves are wrongheaded and futile. As one critic summed it up, Updike “radically divorced” Christian theology from Christian ethics.
The upshot was a self-indulgent religion that basked in self-affirmation while running from voices that would challenge the self to change, particularly in ways that were not pleasant. It is telling that Updike’s last poem ends with words of self-assurance from Psalm 23: “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, forever.”
One cannot help thinking that Updike’s religion helped build the theological scaffolding for mainline Protestantism’s baptism of gay marriage. Updike wrote of mainline Protestants and their efforts to justify the sexual revolution. Although Updike himself regarded heterosexual sex as normative, his elevation of sex as a way to transcendence would prevent heterosexual Protestants from barring the door to other kinds of sex. Updike told the CBS reporter, “Sex is one of the means—maybe the foremost means—whereby the [moral and religious] search is conducted.” Once mainline America became persuaded—even in the absence of empirical evidence—that gays are born that way, how could they deny that their sex might be their way to the divine? Updike would surely have agreed. And millions of Updike readers could thank the novelist for helping them see that marriages defined by desire were not only a right but also a sacrament.
'See' is standardly employed as a verb of success. I wonder: does the author in his last sentence so intend it? 'Believe' would work better, no?
More importantly, it is just self-serving nonsense to view sex as the foremost means for conducting the moral and religious search. That sounds like a joke. I am put in mind of Chogyam Trungpa. According to one report, ". . . Trungpa slept with a different woman every night in order to transmit the teaching to them. L. intimated that it was really a hardship for Trungpa to do this, but it was his duty in order to spread the dharma."
We are concupiscent from the ground up. So it is no surprise that even Christianity can be so twisted as to serve the sex monkey by one who apparently was its slave.
But if truth be told, I just now ordered Couples to see how the brilliant Updike makes his case. Updike is a master of social phenomenology as I discovered when I read Rabbit is Rich in the early '90s.
As for the radical divorce of theology and ethics, there cannot be anything salutary about splitting them asunder. But if split them you must, it would be better to jettison the theology and keep the ethics for the sake of our happiness in this world, which we know, as opposed to the next which we merely believe in. It is an empirical question, but on balance the sexual revolution has not improved human eudaimonia. Our predicament post-pill is hardly a paradise.
Updike looks to be a poster boy for the false dichotomy of spirituality versus religion.
The barfly and the gambler, the flâneur and the floozy, fritter away their time. And they are condemned for so doing by the solid bourgeois.
But the latter thinks, though he may not say, that the pursuits of the monastery and the ivory tower, though opposite to the low life's dissipation, are equally time-wasting. Prayer, meditation, study for its own sake, translation and transmission of culture, the vita contemplativa, Pieperian leisure, otium liberale, moral scrupulosity, mindfulness, the various disciplines of palate and penis, heart and memory, working out one's salvation with diligence -- all will evoke a smile from the worldly bourgeois fellow, the man of substance solidly planted in the self-satisfied somnolence of middle-class mediocrity.
He's tolerant of course, and superficially respectful, but the respect becomes real only after the time-waster has managed to turn a buck or secure a livelihood from his time-wasting by becoming a teacher in a college, say, or a pastor of a church.
In part it is about control. I can't control your body, but I can control mine. Control is good. Power is good. Physical culture is the gaining and maintaining of power over that part of the physical world that is one's physical self.
Self-mastery, as the highest mastery, must include mastery of the vehicle of one's subjectivity. Control of one's vehicle is a clear desideratum. So stretch, run, hike, bike, swim, put the shot, lift the weight.
In short: rouse your sorry ass from the couch of sloth and attend to your vehicle. 'Ass' here refers to Frate Asino, Brother Jackass, St Francis' name for his body. Keep him in good shape and he will carry you and many a prodigious load over many a pons asinorum.
(It is interesting that the German Arsch, when it crossed the English Channel became 'arse,' but in the trans-Atlantic trip it transmogrified into the polyvalent 'ass.' Whatever you call it, get it off the couch.)
Conservatives sometimes invoke facts as if the factuality of a fact justifies it. Rush Limbaugh: "Life is not fair." Bill O'Reilly: "We live in a capitalist society."
But you can't say that life is not fair and leave it at that; for this allows the lefty to come back with, "Then let's make it fair!" After all, the mere fact that such-and-such is the case doesn't justify its being the case. Similarly with capitalism. You cannot just say that our economy is capitalist. You have to go on to explain why capitalism is a superior form of economic arrangement.
John Rawls wrote a very influential book entitled A Theory of Justice in which he articulates the notion that justice is fairness. Key to his book is what he calls the Difference Principle.
Rawls' Difference Principle implies that social and economic inequalities are justified only if they benefit the worst off in a society. (Cf. A Theory of Justice, Harvard UP, 1971, p. 60) There is more to it than that, but that is an implication of it.
But I can't see why one ought to accept the implication. Suppose A and B are from similar backgrounds. They work at the same type of job. Person A devotes himself to wine, women, and song. B, however, practices the old virtues, saves, invests, and then buys, improves, rents and sells mid-range real estate. Person A has enough throughout his life but dies with nothing. B dies with a net worth of 5 million USD, which is not that difficult to acquire these days given inflation and a reasonably healthy economy.
I would say that the economic disparity between A and B is justified whether or not the inequality benefits the worst-off. Of course, the disparity will benefit others, and maybe even the worst-off. As conservatives like to point out, poor people don't hire anybody. Our small-scale developer, however, will hire all sorts of people.
Liberals like Rawls seem to assume that there is something unjust about inequality as such. I don't see it. Of course, inequality that has arisen from fraud, etc. is unjust. But inequality as such? Why?
My tendency is to think that not only are some inequalities allowed by justice, but positively required by it. But this is a huge topic, and to discuss it properly one has to delve into the theoretical apparatus (original position, veil of ignorance, etc.) with which Rawls supports his two principles of justice.
My point du jour is simply that too many conservatives lack the intellectual equipment and/or training properly to defend conservative ideas. They have the right ideas but they can't articulate and defend them. I am talking about influential conservatives, the ones in the trenches of talk radio and television, people like Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Hannity. I am not talking about the conservatives in the ivory towers that few have heard of such as Victor Davis Hanson.
1) When America leads, the world is better.[. . .]
2) The terrible presidency of Barack Obama is beginning to be acknowledged.
Following President Trump's order to attack Syria about 63 hours after the Syrian regime seemingly used chemical weapons, even many in the mainstream media couldn't help but contrast his prompt response with Obama's nonresponse to Assad's use of chemical weapons in 2013. [. . .]
Likewise, Obama's do-nothing policies vis-a-vis North Korea are being contrasted with Trump's warnings to leader Kim Jung Un about further testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and pressure on China's leaders to rein in the North Korean regime.
These contrasts are important for a number of reasons, not the least of which being there is now hope that Obama's star will dim as time goes on.
This will come as somewhat of a surprise to those on the left, but many of us who are not on the left believe that Obama did more damage to America than any previous president -- economically, militarily and socially.
Regarding the social damage, as the first black president in American history, he could have been an unprecedented force for racial healing but instead left America more racially divided than any modern president. In his repeated citing of Ferguson, for example, he helped spread the lie that a racist white Missouri police officer had killed an innocent black teenager without reason (other than racial bias).
He deceived the American people (the "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" assertion and more) in order to pass Obamacare, one of the largest government-expanding programs in American history. He used presidential power in an unprecedentedly authoritarian manner. He showed far more understanding of the Iranian theocracy than of the Israeli democracy. His Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice were politicized in ways reminiscent of corrupt Third World regimes. And he left America fighting a (thus far nonviolent) second Civil War.
3) The interminably repeated left-wing lie that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in cahoots has exploded. [. . .]
4) Another charge made over and over by the left -- the mainstream media, academia and the Democratic Party -- that the Trump election had unleashed an unprecedented amount of anti-Semitism was proven to be yet another left-wing hysteria based on a left-wing lie. [. . .]
Obama treated our allies like dirt, and he didn’t just embolden our enemies. He paid them - literally - with pallet loads of cash. Of course our enemies stopped fearing us. To the extent Putin diddled with our election by exposing the depths of Democrat corruption, it’s because he wasn’t afraid of that posing, prancing puffboy in the White House.
You don't want to wind up on the wrong end of Schlichter's polemic.
Enjoying your posts as always! Thanks for writing so regularly, at such a high level. Reading your posts on Wittgenstein on religion I have a few quick thoughts about religion (or Christianity specifically). When I first started reading Wittgenstein, I initially thought that he had in mind some very different reason for thinking that historical evidence or facts were irrelevant to religion. Then I realized this was just what I wanted to think, for my own reasons; I think you've done a good job here of explaining what he and his followers probably have in mind, and why it seems so absurd.
Still, I have sympathy for his claim that it just wouldn't matter if it turned out that all the Gospels were fabrications (for example). I'm not a Christian--at least, I don't think I am one? But I have the strong intuition that the story of Christ is just true, in some ultimate sense, so that if it's not historically true that would only show that history is a superficial or irrelevant kind of truth--that it just doesn't matter what happened historically if we want to know about ultimate things like God, the soul, the afterlife.
If I learned that Christ never existed, for example, then I'd be inclined to interpret this "fiction" as some kind of intrusion of a higher reality into our lame little empirical world. God might well pierce the Veil of Maya in a "fictional" story, right? If this world is illusory or second-rate somehow, it wouldn't be that surprising if that's the way it works. The prisoners in the Cave might first intuit the real world outside by seeing (similarly) "fictional" representations of the real world produced by the figures in front of the fire.
So I think Wittgenstein overlooks an important third possibility: the truth of Christianity might be neither "historical" nor some set of "truths of reason" but instead some other truth that is just as "objective" (i.e., independent of any language games) but which is only grasped by means of a historically false narrative (or by means of participating in a certain language game for which questions of truth and falsity with respect to the empirical or historical world are irrelevant). I realize this is kind of sketchy and vague! Do you know what I mean?
This is fascinating and I encourage Jacques to work out his ideas in detail and in depth.
A comparison of Christianity with Buddhism suggests itself. As I understand Buddhism, its truth does not require the actual existence of a prince Siddartha who long ago attained Enlightenment by intense seated meditation under the Bodhi Tree and in so doing became Buddha. This is because one's own enlightenment does not depend on what some other person accomplished or failed to accomplish. There is no Savior in Buddhism; or, if you will, one is one's own savior. Salvation is not vicarious, but individual. Buddhism is a religion of self-help, or 'own power': if one attains the salvific state one does so by one's own power and doing and not by the mediation or help of someone else. History, then, doesn't matter: there needn't have been someone in the past who did the work for us. The sutras might just be stories whose truth does not depend on past events, but is a function of their efficacy here and now in leading present persons to the salvific state (nibbana, nirvana). Verification in the here and now is all that is needed.
What Jacques is saying sounds similar to this. The Christian story is true, but not because it records historical facts such as the crucifixion, death, and Resurrection of one Jesus of Nazareth, who took the sins of the world upon himself, the sacrificial lamb of God who, by taking the sins of mankind upon himself and expiating them on the cross, took away the sins: agnus dei qui tollit peccata mundi. Jacques is telling us that the Christian story is true whether or not it is historically true, and that its truth is therefore not the truth of an historical account. And he agrees with Wittgenstein that the truths of Christianity are not propositions discernible by reason. I think Jacques is open to the idea that the truth of Christianity is revealed truth, a sort of revealed 'fiction' or 'myth' that illuminates our predicament. But Jacques disagrees with Wittgenstein, and agrees with me, by denying that Christianity is a mere language game (Sprachspiel) and form of life (Lebensform). That would subjectivize it, in contradiction to its being revealed truth.
Jacques is proposing a fourth way: Christianity is the revelation by God of a sort of 'fictional' or 'mythical' truth that does not depend on what goes on "in our lame little empirical world." To evaluate this one would have to know more about the sense in which Christianity is true on his reading. Buddhism doesn't need historical facts because its truth is a matter of the efficacy of its prescriptions and proscriptions in inducing in an individual an ever-deepening detachment from the samsaric world in the direction of an ultimate extinguishing of desire and the ego that feeds on it.
I seem to recall Max Scheler saying somewhere that the Buddhist project is one of de-realizing the sensible world. That is a good way of putting it. The Buddhist meditator aims to see through the world by penetrating its radical impermanence (anicca) which goes together with its total lack of self-nature or substantiality (anatta), the two together making it wholly 'ill' or 'unsatisfactory' (dukkha).
Christianity, however, is not life-denying in this sense. Christ says that he came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. This life is a transfigured life in which the self is not dissolved but transformed. Christianity does not seek the eradication of desire, as does Buddhism, but its re-direction upon a worthy object.
Orthodox -- not majuscule but miniscule 'o' -- Christianity is not susceptible to Jacques' reading. Christianity is a very strange religion blending as it does Platonic and Gnostic elements with Hebraic materialism and particularism. (How odd of God to choose the Jews.) Although Gnosticism was rejected as heresy early on, Platonism is essential to Christianity as Joseph Ratzinger rightly argues in his Introduction to Christianity. (Ratzinger was Pope before Bergoglio the Benighted. The German has a very good theological-philosophical head on his shoulders.) But Jewish materialism and particularism are also essential to Christianity. No orthodox Christian can gainsay what Saul/Paul of Tarsus writes at 1 Corinthians 15:14: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (KJV)
How the mystical-Platonic-spiritual-universal elements (Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, et al.) can be made to fit with the material-historical- particularist elements is not easy to say. There are a number of tensions.
But the main thing that speaks against Jacques' interpretation is that Christianity does not propose an escape from this material world of space, time, flux, and history. This world is not illusory or the veil of Maya as on such Indian systems as Advaita Vedanta, nor is it anicca, anatta, and dukkha in the precise senses that those terms have in original, Pali Buddhism. This world is not a product of ignorance or avidya, and the task is not to see through it. The goal is not to pierce the veil of Original Ignorance, but to accept Jesus Christ as one's savior from Original Sin. The material world is real, albeit derivatively real, as a created world.
Is this world "second-rate"? Well, it does not possess the plenary reality of its Source, God. It has a different and lesser mode of Being than God's mode of Being. And it is a fallen world. On Christianity, it is not just mankind that is fallen, but the whole of creation. What Christianity proposes is not an escape from this world into a purely spiritual world, but a redemption of this world that somehow spiritualizes the gross matter with which we are all too familiar.
So on my understanding of Christianity, the problem with the material world is not that it is material, but that it has been corrupted by some Event far in the past the negative effects of which can only be undone by subsequent historical events such as the birth of Christ, his atonement, and the Second Coming. History is essential to Christianity.
Like Jacques, I too have Platonic tendencies. That may come with being a philosopher. Hence I sympathize with his sketch. Maybe the truth lies in that direction. But if we are trying to understand orthodox Christianity, then Jacques' approach is as unacceptable as Wittgenstein's.
Would this have happened under Hillary? (That is what we call a rhetorical question.)
[Atty Gen'l Jeff] Sessions has made immigration enforcement a top priority. Late last month he put “sanctuary cities" on notice, announcing that grant money would be withheld from state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities and turn over undocumented immigrants arrested for crimes.
Bozo de Blasio will of course scream in protest. This is the guy who thinks "it is OK to shield undocumented immigrants who drive drunk from federal authorities . . . ." As if drunk driving is not a very serious felony.
What does it say about the citizens of New York City that they would would choose as mayor such a destructive leftist?
Once again we note the characteristic liberal-left tendency to take the side of the criminal, the loser, the underdog, regardless of what they have done to acquire their status.
An illegal alien who drives drunk is a criminal twice over, first by entering the country illegally, and then by committing the serious felony of drunk driving.
But so-called liberals have an exasperatingly lenient and casual attitude toward criminal behavior and little or no respect for the rule of law. Theodore Dalrymple is good on this.
You should be grateful that Hillary was handed her walking papers and won't be coming back.
Will to Power #437 contains a marvellous discussion of Pyrrho of Elis. A taste:
A Buddhist for Greece, grown up amid the tumult of the schools; a latecomer; weary; the protest of weariness against the zeal of the dialecticians; the unbelief of weariness in the importance of all things. (tr. Kaufmann)
Years ago I noted the strange similarity of some arguments found in Nagarjuna and the late Pyrrhonist, Sextus Empiricus. (Memo to self: blog it!)
We who are obscure ought to be grateful for it. It is wonderful to be able to walk down the street andbe taken for an ordinary schlep. A little recognition from a few high-quality individuals is all one needs. Fame can be a curse.
The unhinged Mark David Chapman, animated by Holden Caulfield's animus against phoniness, decided that John Lennon was a phony, and so had to be shot.
The mad pursuit of empty celebrity by so many in our society shows their and its spiritual vacuity.
Walmart’s benefits are obvious to shoppers and to economists like Jason Furman, who served in the Clinton administration and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. In a paper, “Walmart: A Progressive Success Story,” Furman cited estimates that Walmart, by driving down prices, saved the typical American family more than $2,300 annually. That was about the same amount that a family on food stamps then received from the federal government.
1 Corinthians 15:14: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (KJV)
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, U. of Chicago Press, 1980, tr. Peter Winch, p. 32e, entry from 1937:
Queer as it sounds: The historical accounts in the Gospels might, historically speaking, be demonstrably false and yet belief would lose nothing by this: not, however because it concerns 'universal truths of reason'! Rather because historical proof (the historical proof-game) is irrelevant to belief. This message (the Gospels) is seized on by men believingly (i.e. lovingly). That is the certainty characterizing this particular acceptance-as-true, not something else.
A believer's relation to these narratives is neither the relation to historical truth (probability), nor yet that to a theory consisting of 'truths of reason'. [ . . .]
Central to the Gospel accounts is that Christ was seen alive by numerous witnesses after his crucifixion and death. Assuming that 'faith' and 'belief' are interchangeable in this context, Paul is saying that belief in Christ as savior is vain (empty, without substance) if the Gospel accounts are false. Wittgenstein, however, is maintaining the exact opposite: Christian belief loses nothing of its substance even if the Gospel accounts could be proven to be false.
How can Wittgenstein maintain something so seemingly preposterous?
Christianity is a form of life, a language-game, self-contained, incommensurable with other language-games, under no threat from them, and to that extent insulated from logical, historical, and scientific objections, as well as from objections emanating from competing religious language-games.
This is why the "historical proof-game" is irrelevant to Christian belief. The two language games are not in competition.
But is the Christian belief system true? Evasion of this question strikes me as impossible.
Here is where the Wittgensteinian approach stops making sense for me. No doubt a religion practiced is a form of life; but is it a reality-based form of life? When Jesus told Pontius Pilate that he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth, Pilate dismissed his claim with the skeptical, "What is truth?" I for one cannot likewise dismiss the question of the truth of Christianity in Pilate's world-weary way. (Pilate comes across to me like a Pyrrhonian skeptic who is tired of these deep questions and just doesn't care any more.) If Christianity is true, it is objectively true; it corresponds to the way things are; it is not merely a set of beliefs that a certain group of people internalize and live by, but has an objective reference beyond itself.
And no doubt religions can be usefully viewed as language games. But Schachspiel is also a Sprachspiel. What then is the difference between Christianity and chess? Chess does not, and does not purport to, refer to anything beyond itself. Christianity does so purport. This is why it is absurd when L. W claims, in other places, that Christianity is not a doctrine. Of course it is a doctrine. Its being much more than a doctrine does not show otherwise.
So I say the following. If it is demonstrable that the Resurrection did not occur, then Christian faith is in vain. Paul is right and Ludwig is wrong. Historical investigation cannot be wholly irrelevant to Christian belief. On the other hand, at some point one has to make a faith commitment. This involves a doxastic leap since one cannot prove that the Resurrection did occur. Will is superadded to intellect and one decides to believe. It may help to reflect that unbelief is also a decision and also involves a leap. Given the infirmity of reason, and the welter of conflicting considerations, it is impossible to know which leap is more likely to be a leap onto solid ground.
"Go on, believe! It does no harm." (CV, 45e)
Existentially, this may well be the decisive consideration. What, after all, does the believer lose if Christianity turns out to be false? Where is the harm in believing? On the other hand, should it prove to be true . . . .
So while Wittgenstein, like Kierkegaard, takes an extreme, and ultimately untenable view, he has existential insights that need accommodation.
Here is an extended post on Wittgensteinian fideism.
As cinema and story-telling, The Case for Christ leaves something to be desired. But if ideas are your thing, then this movie may hold your attention as it held mine. It will help if you are at least open to the possibility that Christ rose from the dead.
The review in Christianity Today is worth reading, but the anti-intellectual tenor of the following bit stuck in my craw:
Alas, all that goes out the window when it comes time for the portions of the film that actually make the case for Christ. It is beyond the scope of a film review to evaluate the specific arguments and assumptions articulated by the people whom Strobel interviews, but regardless of their rhetorical and historical merits, the apologetics sequences make for bad cinema and bad storytelling. Periodically, the domestic melodrama and character development come to a screeching halt, superseded by enormous chunks of exposition that work better on a page than on a screen.
Gunn does his best to stage the interviews in an interesting way, but the results are nonetheless stilted, sometimes comically so. (A conversation with a medical professional, for example, is set in a laboratory with lots of doctors milling about, doing vaguely science-y things while ignoring the reporter who is distracting their boss with questions about the Crucifixion.) The audience is left with little to do other than twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the story to start rolling again.
Twiddle their thumbs? Are you serious? That part of the flick raised in a graphic way the issue of whether the Swoon Hypothesis holds any water, and to my mind, showed that it doesn't. To hell with story-telling. The best parts of the movie were the apologetics sequences.
But if you are looking for entertainment, or think that a man's relation with his wife is of more importance that the question of the Resurrection, then you should stay away from this movie.
"(PT) Necessarily, for any contingent individual x, x exists if and only if (i) there is a necessary y such that y is the paradigm existent, and (ii) y, as the external unifier of x's ontological constituents, directly produces the unity/existence of x." (p. 2).
I can't seem to square this with something that you say in chapter 2,
“Socrates cannot instantiate any property unless he is an existent, self-identical individual … Socrates must antecedently exist to instantiate the property of existence” (p. 48)
My question is this:
Q: If x must antecedently exist in order x to instantiate the property of existence (the instantiation relation) (see p. 48), musn't x exist in order for x to stand in any sort of relation (unifier relation, production relation) to a paradigm existent? (see p. 2)
At any rate, I'm not sure I'm understanding how these passages fit together, and hence my question.
The question is reasonable and worthy of a response.
First of all, I deny that existence is a property. It is neither a first-level property nor a higher-level property, pace Frege, Russell, and their numerous acolytes and fellow-travellers. Properties are instantiable items on my definition of 'property,' and I argue that it makes no sense to hold that an individual exists in virtue of instantiating existence. But it is nonetheless a datum, a Moorean fact, that individuals exist. Socrates, then, exists, but he does not exist in virtue of instantiating a supposed property of existence. This motivates one of the tasks of the book: to explain how existence can belong to a concrete, contingent individual without being a property of it.
My answer, roughly, is that the existence of an individual is a kind of unity of its ontological constituents. This of course assumes that some entities have ontological constituents. It assumes 'constituent ontology.' The latter profits from the liabilities of 'non-constituent ontology,' or what Nicholas Wolterstorff unhelpfully calls 'relation ontology.' But I cheerfully grant that constituent ontology has its own liabilities.
The existence of Socrates, then, is the unity or togetherness of his ontological constituents, but not their compresence as on a bundle theory. My version of constituent ontology in PTE is factualist, with roots in Gustav Bergmann, David M. Armstrong, and Armstrong's teacher, John Anderson. So the unity I am speaking of is the unity of the constituents of a concrete fact or state of affairs. It is a kind of unity that makes of non-truth-making items a truth-maker.
In sum, individuals exist pace the 'Fressellians.' But they don't exist in virtue of instantiating any property. (For example, it would be absurd to say that S. exists in virtue of instantiating (the property of) humanity. Exercise for the reader: explain why.) So I propose that for an individual to exist is for its ontological 'parts' to be unified in the fact-constituting and truth-making way.
But what about this unity or togetherness of constituents? Is it a further constituent? No, on pain of (something like) Bradley's Regress. Is it just the individual itself such that there is no difference between the existing of x and x? No, for reasons an entire chapter lays out.
And then, by reasoning whose complexity does not allow for quick summarization, I argue that concrete individuals would be contradictory structures were it not for a Unifier 'responsible' for the unity/existence of each contingent concretum. That is, the truth-making unity of each set of fact-friendly and compossible constituents derives from the Paradigm Existent, the Unifier. This external unifier is the ultimate ground of the existence of each contingent concretum.
Now what is Professor Mosteller's objection? I think what he is saying is something like the following:
On your scheme there is the manifold of unities and the one Unifier that serves as the metaphysical cause of the unity of each unity of constituents. But then the Unifier or Paradigm Existent is related to each contingent existent. Now if x stands in relation R to y, then both x and y exist. So if the Paradigm Existence stands in the unifying relation to each existent, then each existent must 'already' (logically if not temporally) exist in order to stand in the relation the standing in whcih is supposed to confer existence in the first place!
You're moving in a circle of embarrassingly diameter. In fact, you a doing what you said could not be done when you said that existence cannot be a property of individuals. One of your arguments was that, if existence were a property, then an existing individual would have 'already' to exist in order to to stand in the instantiation relation to the property, and that this circularity shows that the explanation of existence in terms of instantiation is bogus.
My response is that the the Unifier is not related to what it unifies. Equivalently, metaphysical production/causation/unification is not a relation. The Unifier's unifying is sui generis, as sui generis as the Unifier itself. The category of relations is an extant category. Neither the Unifier nor its activity of unifying are members of any extant category. Categores are the categories of beings. The Unifier is not a being among beings, but Being itself. And its activity is not an activity among activities in the world, but the Activity that makes there be a world in the first place. This Making, clearly, is itself sui generis. The Paradigm Existent is the Maker of those entities that serve as the truth-makers of truth-bearers or truth-vehicles.
I think we are standing on familiar theological ground. Is God related to creatures? What could that mean? If creation is a relation, then both God and Socrates would both have to exist for the relation to hold. That is absurd in that God creates Socrates ex nihilo. Divine creating is not an acting upon something that already exists. The Absolute Reality cannot be a demiurge.
Similarly with the Unifier; it is the metaphysical cause of the existence of contingent concreta when 'before' (logically speaking) they did not exist. It therefore cannot be related to them.
Now what I say in PTE is problematic in various ways. But I see no inconsistency in what Tim quotes me as saying.
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, tr. Craufurd, Routledge 1995, p. 75:
The infinite which is in man is at the mercy of a little piece of iron; such is the human condition; space and time are the cause of it. It is impossible to handle this piece of iron without suddenly reducing the infinite which is in man to a point on the pointed part, a point on the handle, at the cost of a harrowing pain. The whole being is stricken in the instant; there is no place left for God, even in the case of Christ, where the thought of God is then that of privation. This stage has to be reached if there is to be incarnation. The whole being becomes privation of God: how can we go beyond? After that there is only the resurrection. To reach this stage the cold touch of naked iron is necessary.
'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' There we have the real proof that Christianity is something divine. (p. 79)
We are spiritual beings, participants in the infinite and the absolute. But we are also, undeniably, animals. Our human condition is thus a predicament, that of a spiritual animal. As spirits we enjoy freedom of the will and the ability to encompass the whole universe in our thought. As spirits we participate in the infinity and absoluteness of truth. As animals, however, we are but indigent bits of the world's fauna exposed to and compromised by its vicissitudes. As animals we are susceptible to pains and torments that swamp the spirit and obliterate the infinite in us reducing us in an instant to mere screaming animals.
Now if God were to become one of us, fully one of us, would he not have to accept the full measure of the spirit's hostage to the flesh? Would he not have to empty himself fully into our misery? That is Weil's point. The fullness of Incarnation requires that the one incarnated be tortured to death. For if Christ is to be fully human, in addition to fully divine, he must experience the highest exaltation and the lowest degradation. These extreme possibilities, though not actual in all, define being human.
The Crucifixion is the Incarnation in extremis. His spirit, 'nailed' to the flesh, is the spirit of flesh now nailed to the wood of the cross. At this extreme point of the Incarnation, doubly nailed to matter, Christ experiences utter abandonment. He experiences and accepts utter failure and the terrifying thought that his whole life and ministry were utterly delusional.
Here is a famous passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance" rarely quoted in full:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. (Ziff, 183)
People routinely rip the initial clause of this passage out of its context and take Emerson to be attacking logical consistency. Or else they quote only the first sentence, or the first two sentences. An example by someone who really ought to know better is provided by Robert Fogelin in his book, Walking the Tightrope of Reason (Oxford UP, 2001). Chapter One, "Why Obey the Laws of Logic?," has among its mottoes (p. 14) the first two sentences of the Emerson quotation above. The other three mottoes, from Whitman, Nietzsche, and Aristotle, are plainly about logical consistency.
It should be clear to anyone who reads the entire passage quoted above in the context of Emerson's essay that Emerson’s dictum has nothing to do with logical consistency and everything to do with consistency of beliefs over time.
The consistency in question is diachronic rather than synchronic. A “little mind” is “foolishly consistent” if it refuses to change its beliefs when change is needed due to changing circumstances, further experience, or clearer thinking. It should be clear that if I believe that p at time t, but believe that ~p at later time t*, then there is no time at which I hold logically inconsistent beliefs.
Doxastic alteration, like alteration in general, is noncontradictory for the simple reason that properties which are contradictory when taken in abstracto are had at different times. My coffee changes from hot to non-hot, and thus has contradictory attributes when we abstract from the time of their instantiation. But since the coffee instantiates them at different times, there is no contradiction such as would cause us to join Parmenides in denying the reality of the changeful world.
Belief change is just a special case of this.
Emerson’s sound point, then, is that one should not make a fetish out of doxastic stasis: there is nothing wrong with being ‘inconsistent’ in the sense of changing one’s beliefs when circumstances change and as one gains in experience and insight. But this is not to say that one should adopt the antics of the flibbertigibbet. Relative stability of views over time is an indicator of character.
Before leaving this topic, let's consider what Walt Whitman has to say in the penultimate section 51 of “Song of Myself” in Leaves of Grass:
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Here it appears that Whitman is thumbing his nose at logical consistency. If so, the Emersonic and Whitmanic dicta ought not be confused. But confuse them is precisely what Fogelin does when he places the Emerson and Whitman quotations cheek-by-jowl on p. 14 of his book.
That being said, Professor Fogelin is a very good philosopher, and the book I refer to above is well worth your time.
Why is religious belief so hard to accept? Why is it so much harder to accept today than in past centuries?
Herewith, some notes toward a list of the impedimenta, the stumbling blocks, that litter the path of the would-be believer of the present day. Whether the following ought to be impediments is a further question, a normative question. The following taxonomy is merely descriptive. And probably incomplete. This is a blog. This is only a blog.
1. There is first of all the obtrusiveness and constancy and coherence of the deliverances of the senses, outer and inner. The "unseen order" (William James), if such there be, is no match for the 'seen order.' The massive assault upon the sense organs has never been greater than at the present time given the high technology of distraction: radio, television, portable telephony, e-mail, Facebook and other social media, not to mention Twitter, perhaps the ultimate weapon of mass distraction.
Here is some advice on how to avoid God from C. S. Lewis, "The Seeing Eye" in Christian Reflections (Eeerdmans, 1967), pp. 168-167:
Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers. You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.
If Lewis could only see us now.
2. The fact that there are many competing systems of religious belief and practice. They overlap, but they also contradict. The extant contradictory systems cannot all be true, though they could all be false. The fact that one's own system is contradicted by others doesn't make it false, but it does raise reasonable doubts as to whether it is true. For a thinking person, this is a stumbling block to the naive and unthinking acceptance of the religion in which one has been brought up.
3. The specificity of religious belief systems and their excessively detailed dogmatic contents. One is put off by the presumptuousness of those who claim to know what they cannot, or are not likely, to know. For example, overconfident assurances as to the natures of heaven, hell, and purgatory together with asseverations as to who went where. Stalin in hell? How do you know? How do you even know that there is a place of everlasting punishment as opposed to such other options as simple annihilation of unrepentant miscreants?
There is the presumptuousness of those who fancy that they understand the economics of salvation to such a degree that they can confidently assert that so many Hail Mary's will remove so many years in purgatory. For many, such presumptuousness is an abomination, though not as bad as the sale of indulgences.
The human mind, driven by doxastic security needs, is naturally dogmatic and naturally tends to make certainties of uncertainties. (It also does the opposite when in skeptical mode: it makes uncertainties of (practical) certainties.)
4. The fact that the religions of the world, over millenia, haven't done much to improve us individually or collectively. Even if one sets aside the intemperate fulminations of the New Atheists, that benighted crew uniquely blind to the good religion has done, there is the fact that religious belief and practice, even if protracted and sincere, do little toward the moral improvement of people. To some this is an impediment to acceptance of a religion.
Related point: the corruption of the churches.
Again, my task here is merely descriptive. I am not claiming that one ought to be dissuaded from religion by its failure to improve people much or to maintain itself in institutional form without corruption. One can always argue that we would have been much, much worse without religion. Even Islam, "The saddest and poorest form of theism," (Schopenhauer) has arguably improved the lot of the denizens of the lands in which it has held sway, civilizing them, and providing moral guidance.
5. The putative conflict between science and religion. Competing magisteria each with a loud claim to be the proper guide to life. Thinking people are bothered by this.
6. The tension between Athens (philosophy) and Jerusalem (religion). The battle between faith and reason. So many of the contents of religion are either absurd (logically contradictory) or else difficult to show to be rationally acceptable.
7. The weight of concupiscence. We are sexual beings naturally, and oversexualized beings socially, and so largely unable to control our drives. The thrust of desire valorizes the phenomenal thus conferring plenary reality upon the objects of the senses while occluding one's spiritual sight into the noumenal. See Simone Weil in the Light of Plato. Is it any surprise that the atheist Russell, even in old age, refused to be faithful to his wife? It is reasonable to conjecture that his lust and his pride -- intellectuals tend to be very proud with outsized egos-- blinded him to spiritual realities. Jean-Paul Sartre is another case in point.
8. Suggestibility. We are highly sensitive and responsive to social suggestions as to what is real and important and what is not. In a society awash with secular suggestions, people find it hard to take religion seriously.
10. The rise of life-extending technology. For some of us at least, life is a lot less nasty, brutish, and short than it used to be. This aids and abets the illusion that this material life suffices and will continue indefinitely. The worst illusion sired by advanced technology, however, is the transhumanist fantasy which I discuss here.
Innovations are presumed guilty until proven innocent. There is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional beliefs, usages, institutions, arrangements, techniques, and whatnot, provided they work. By all means allow the defeat of the outworn and no-longer-workable: in with the new if the novel is better. But the burden of proof is on the would-be innovator: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Conservatives are not opposed to change. We are opposed to non-ameliorative change, and change for the sake of change.
And once again, how can anyone who loves his country desire its fundamental transformation? How can anyone love anything who desires its fundamental transformation?
You love a girl and want to marry her. But you propose that she must first undergo a total makeover: butt lift, tummy tuck, nose job, breast implants, psychological re-wire, complete doxastic overhaul, sensus divinitatis tune-up, Weltanschauung change-out, memory upgrade, and so on. Do you love her, or is she merely the raw material for the implementation of your currently uninstantiated idea of what a girl should be?
The extension to love of country is straightforward. If you love your country, then you do not desire its fundamental transformation. Contrapositively, if you do desire its fundamental transformation, then you do not love it.
Then you are guilty of 'cultural appropriation' unless you are English.
A philosophy professor comments:
The claim in your post today, strikes me as clearly false.
Just because someone speaks a language (even as a primary language) doesn't mean they are cultural appropriators guilty of something. Imagine the English colonize your land and people and force English upon you. Then this conditional, which is what I think you are claiming, is false: "If you speak English and you are not English, then you are guilty of 'cultural appropriation'.
The good professor has found a counterexample to my conditional claim. But he misses the point of my pithy little poke. My intention was to ridicule the politically correct silliness of those who see something reprehensible in, say, donning a sombrero when one is not a Mexican. Aphorisms, maxims, and other sayings derive their punch from their pith. You have heard it said, briefly, and with wit, that "Brevity is the soul of wit."
Let us note en passant and in defiance of the content of the witticism that it can be found in William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act II wherein the Bard has Polonius say:
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief: your noble son is mad.
Was this beautiful coinage first put into circulation by Shakespeare? I have no idea. But I digress.
Consider the following piece of folk wisdom,
He who hesitates is lost.
Counterexamples abound. And the same goes for the competing maxim,
Look before you leap.
If one were to rewrite them to make them proof against the punctilios of philosophers and logicians, the result would be something clunky and not particularly memorable. For example,
It is often, but not always, the case that one who hesitates before acting misses his opportunity and in consequence of such hesitancy either loses his life or suffers some lesser, but nonetheless regrettable, loss.
But then one has traded the lawyerly for the literary.